MEMORIES OF MY GHOST BROTHER

Autobiographical first novel told from the point of view of a young Amerasian boy, the son of a ``yellow-haired'' German-American GI and his Korean wife. Young Insu grows up in Inchon in a house that was owned by a Japanese colonel during WW II. Korean resisters were tortured here in the beautiful garden, but Insu, a sensitive boy, prefers to imagine the cruel colonel to have been more like a harsh surrogate father than a murderer. Insu's sorrows exist not only in his imagination. His mother gave up her other son for adoption so that her GI lover, Insu's father, would marry her. The missing brother is like a missing limb, and because of him, Insu despises his profane, profoundly alien father, whom he visits periodically on a post near the DMZ. There, he learns of other worlds: the Vietnam his father has been transferred from, the Germany where his Caucasian grandparents live, and, strangest of all, the America that he senses will shape his destiny. Although his father is diagnosed with inoperable cancer, Insu and his mother emigrate to America; she goes in the hope of finding her lost son, who had been adopted by an American couple. In the new land, an overwhelmed Insu tries to form an identity out of his mixed heritage of Korean folklore, Inchon street-life, and the black market strategies of his mother, all amid the confusion of America. Eventually, he begins to find his own way. He does well in school and his future is promising. And yet his brother, a symbol of his wrenching past, and of the difficult relationship between America and Korea, will always haunt him. Rather slow-moving, and different from its obvious antecedent, Gus Lee's moving but awkward China Boy. Think instead of James Agee's A Death in the Family: not as powerful, perhaps, but equally lyrical, dreamy, and sad.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 1996

ISBN: 0-525-94175-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996

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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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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

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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Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her...

BEFORE WE WERE YOURS

Avery Stafford, a lawyer, descendant of two prominent Southern families and daughter of a distinguished senator, discovers a family secret that alters her perspective on heritage.

Wingate (Sisters, 2016, etc.) shifts the story in her latest novel between present and past as Avery uncovers evidence that her Grandma Judy was a victim of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and is related to a woman Avery and her father meet when he visits a nursing home. Although Avery is living at home to help her parents through her father’s cancer treatment, she is also being groomed for her own political career. Readers learn that investigating her family’s past is not part of Avery's scripted existence, but Wingate's attempts to make her seem torn about this are never fully developed, and descriptions of her chemistry with a man she meets as she's searching are also unconvincing. Sections describing the real-life orphanage director Georgia Tann, who stole poor children, mistreated them, and placed them for adoption with wealthy clients—including Joan Crawford and June Allyson—are more vivid, as are passages about Grandma Judy and her siblings. Wingate’s fans and readers who enjoy family dramas will find enough to entertain them, and book clubs may enjoy dissecting the relationship and historical issues in the book.

Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her fictional characters' lives.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-425-28468-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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