A methodical, convincing story of political upheaval.

NEVER AGAIN

America’s refusal to take in thousands of Israeli refugees incites national tumult in Schwartz’s (On a Barge in France, 2016) thriller.

After an atomic bomb devastates Tel Aviv, two ships filled with Israeli refugees arrive at Boston Harbor. But the U.S. bars their entrance, partly due to the more recent bombing in Damascus, which most presume was Israel’s retaliation to Tel Aviv. Tensions escalate when rocket-propelled grenades—from both ships—hit Coast Guard vessels and result in casualties. When refugees subsequently flee, U.S. President Lawrence Quaid ultimately declares them enemy combatants to be caught and held in a detention camp. American Jews, such as lawyer Ben Shapiro, are shocked by what has all the markings of another Holocaust. In apparent response, allegedly Jewish suicide bombers kill numerous citizens. But Shapiro eventually crosses paths with a group that may be even more dangerous. Debra Reuben, the last surviving member of the Israeli Prime Minister’s cabinet, and Chaim Levi of the Israeli Defense Forces concoct a plan that could entail detonating a nuclear device on American soil. Much of Schwartz’s story is topical. For example, the U.S. ostracizes immigrants by issuing Americards, identification for proving citizenship and ensuring that employers don’t hire those without one. The author skillfully captures the country’s political turmoil. As citizens debate accepting refugees, Boston’s Haitian community opposes it since it would indicate favoritism to “white illegals.” The novel doesn’t take an overt stand on immigration. Quaid, for one, doesn’t display signs of villainy (despite some people’s equating him to Hitler) in that his decisions aren’t based on malice. While the novel is predominantly stark and serious, it’s occasionally wry, like when a character notes that it’s not hard to quickly source materials for an explosive device: “Not in modern America. Not with next-day delivery from Amazon.”

A methodical, convincing story of political upheaval.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63393-733-8

Page Count: 458

Publisher: Koehler Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2018

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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