Worse, the cliché-ridden novel sends uncomfortable cues: Are readers really supposed to blame Clarissa’s younger brother for...

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LOVE & ORDINARY CREATURES

A self-consciously erudite cockatoo narrates this avian-human romance from Rubio (The Woodsman’s Daughter, 2005, etc.).

In 1993, cockatoo Caruso lives on Ocracoke Island on North Carolina’s Outer Banks with Clarissa, a redheaded chef who whips up ambitious culinary delicacies while declaring her own favorite foods remain her beloved late grandmother's traditional Southern dishes. (Health-conscious readers may cringe at a chef who never seems to wash her hands and lets her bird loose in the kitchen.) Caruso became a domestic pet after he was kidnapped from his bird family in Australia years earlier. One smart cockatoo, Caruso is given to ruminating on man’s narcissistic self-importance, following the teachings of the “Great Mother” and quoting Emily Dickinson. That appreciation of poetry came from Caruso’s first owner, Theodore. A saintly romantic, Theodore retired from his career as headmaster of a boys school to move next door to the woman he’d silently loved since childhood despite her long marriage to a rich bully. Before entering a nursing home, Theodore introduced Caruso to concepts of love the bird carries with him as he faces a similar romantic crisis of his own. Caruso is in love with the giggly, annoyingly sweet Clarissa and basks in her attentive affection. Then Clarissa meets Joe, who has come to surf on Ocracoke while on summer break from studying environmental law. Clarissa's past boyfriends didn't threaten Caruso, but she seems serious about Joe. Plucking out his feathers in avian distress, Caruso begins plotting to win Clarissa back. Unfortunately, the cockatoo companion Clarissa finds to mollify Caruso only annoys him before fatally diving headlong into a pot of pasta sauce after a tantalizing feather Caruso has purposely dropped—a moment of unintentional comic relief in the slog through whimsy and New Age–y environmentalism.

Worse, the cliché-ridden novel sends uncomfortable cues: Are readers really supposed to blame Clarissa’s younger brother for being emotionally troubled or dislike her sous chef because he’s effeminate?

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61822-031-8

Page Count: 306

Publisher: Ashland Creek Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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