Contemporary fiction at its best—accessible, breathtaking and heartbreaking.


Brilliant plotting, haunting characters and an elegiac tone distinguish this dazzling novel by Reiken (The Lost Legends of New Jersey, 2000, etc.).

Criticized for his books’ many plot coincidences, Charles Dickens claimed that those who don’t notice coincidence in their lives simply don’t have their eyes open. Reiken seems to hold similar views on concatenation, dexterously using “coincidence” to move his narrative from one relationship and place to another. The novel starts with David and Beverly, an unmarried but committed couple snorkeling around manatees in Florida. David’s leukemia is in remission, but he wants Beverly to adopt his son if he should die. Beverly then links up with Tim, their “manatee scout,” who’s in a local band with vocalist Dee. The next part of the narrative follows Tim and Dee as they fly to Salt Lake City to visit Dee’s brother Dillon, who’s in a coma as the result of a motorcycle accident. Sitting next to them on the plane is a woman who turns out to be a fugitive (of sorts), a much-sought radical from the 1960s; FBI agents’ pursuit of her becomes the next segment of the narrative. The following chapter presents the point of view of Jennifer, Beverly’s brilliant but somewhat wayward daughter, on her mother’s relationships. And so it goes. Reiken segues from character to character with remarkable virtuosity, grounding the narrative in several seemingly disparate but ultimately unifying topics, including the mass murder during World War II of 500 Jews (Beverly’s father and uncle perhaps among them) and an Israeli soldier’s abortive attempt to save a Palestinian boy from falling off a roof, an event that we learn later is connected to Dillon’s motorcycle accident. While Reiken ties his narrative knots, he leaves them satisfyingly loose.

Contemporary fiction at its best—accessible, breathtaking and heartbreaking.

Pub Date: April 26, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-316-07756-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2010

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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