Overdrawn yet readable portrait of collective advocacy and friendship at work, spearheaded by a valiant, relatable...

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What the Enemy Thinks

A BECK CARNELL NOVEL

Former women’s shelter counselor Picco, in her debut, traces the intertwining business and personal lives of an altruistic media consultancy executive.

Beck Carnell, a journalist-turned-CEO of media consultancy Social Good, becomes inspired by her agency’s latest media campaign, which involves carefully publicizing a dispute between the local Ontario Teachers’ Union and the Canadian government’s initiative to freeze wages and restrict the union from exercising its right to strike for three years. The intricate strategizing comes from several of Social Good’s best employees, including Yvonne Precipa, an overachieving media relations specialist, and Asmi, an Indian woman growing impatient with her husband Jai’s indifference toward revealing to his parents that they’d been married in secret. Another specialist, Todd Purcell, busies himself with an aggressive breast cancer campaign while facing political red tape and a precarious past. Adding to the mix is persnickety, rogue bookkeeper Tilda Grubbs, who has embezzled thousands and disappeared. Yvonne and Asmi’s storylines are introduced and resolved somewhat simplistically, whereas Beck’s character gets deeper development, particularly with remembrances of her childhood being regaled with her grandfather’s stories of Newfoundland, her high school days, and her impulsive marriage to former husband Anthony, whom she met while a college student. Beck struggles to provide emotional support for her two grown children while navigating their bitter animosity toward their father, and she aids best friend Samantha Reed, who’s learned of a devastating cancer diagnosis. While affable and devoid of the unsavory elements alluded to by the book’s title, Picco’s contemporary narrative suffers from a lack of plot as well as a surfeit of superfluous exposition. Such detail does little to heighten the narrative tension, particularly in a novel over 400 pages long. Nevertheless, the book’s resilient cast will generate compassion as its characters confront the social and political challenges facing teachers and charitable organizations.

Overdrawn yet readable portrait of collective advocacy and friendship at work, spearheaded by a valiant, relatable protagonist.

Pub Date: July 30, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4917-7003-0

Page Count: 318

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2015

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With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

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LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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OF MICE AND MEN

Steinbeck refuses to allow himself to be pigeonholed. This is as completely different from Tortilla Flat and In Dubious Battle as they are from each other. Only in his complete understanding of the proletarian mentality does he sustain a connecting link though this is assuredly not a "proletarian novel". It is oddly absorbing this picture of the strange friendship between the strong man and the giant with the mind of a not-quite-bright child. Driven from job to job by the failure of the giant child to fit into the social pattern, they finally find in a ranch what they feel their chance to achieve a homely dream they have built. But once again, society defeats them. There's a simplicity, a directness, a poignancy in the story that gives it a singular power, difficult to define. Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1936

ISBN: 0140177396

Page Count: 83

Publisher: Covici, Friede

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1936

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