A wondrously executed parable, sure to attract readers from every walk of life.



This post-apocalyptic novel sees the villagers of Harpers Ferry running from a marauding army of Christian extremists.

In the not-too-distant future, a technologically enhanced strain of influenza has destroyed the modern world. Called the Great Sickness, this disease ended the warfare between Islamic extremists in the Middle East and their mostly Christian counterparts in America. Once-great cities are now overgrown ruins. People have returned to simple village life, and Jason is a watchman in Harpers Ferry, the West Virginia town. While on duty, he encounters a severely wounded man who warns of an army on horseback, violently demanding loyalty to Jesus Christ. Skeptical, the Harpers Ferry elders send Jason to nearby Leesburg, Va., for proof. There, he witnesses the brutal execution of a forced laborer, which confirms that standing against these men and their old god means death. A man named Pravus leads the Christian Empire (based in New Atlanta) and dreams of conquering the rest of the former U.S. He also wants revenge on the traitorous Mordecai, who abandoned war to peacefully spread Christianity. When Mordecai has a strange vision, he heads west, toward Indianapolis. The people of Harpers Ferry, now led by Jason and a council of talented youths, likewise travel west to outrun the Christian horde. Author Livingston (Marketing in the Round, 2012, etc.) presents the perils of medievallike life with unflagging realism. He threatens his characters with food shortages, wolf attacks, river crossings and egotistical outbursts. But sharp, bracing prose makes the quieter moments just as powerful: “A fever, now apparent in the man’s pale, sweat-streaked face, had wasted his long frame.” Such evocative writing helps the novel’s valuable message of religious moderation shine through: “Forced faith breeds sins, encourages hatred, terror, and violence,” Mordecai tells Pravus. “Your brutal teaching denies the essential virtues of faith, hope, and charity.” Only later, when Livingston dictates the drama instead of revealing it through his excellent dialogue and characterization, does the story slow. Fortunately, a stunning, irresistible cliffhanger erases this minor quibble.

A wondrously executed parable, sure to attract readers from every walk of life.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2013


Page Count: 218

Publisher: Lady Soleil, Inc.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2013

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The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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