Despite moments of lyricism, more sensational than subtle.

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THE EDGE OF EDEN

Earthly paradise turns a British marriage hellish in this self-conscious, psychologically insecure novel from Benedict (The Opposite of Love, 2007, etc.).

There’s plenty of sin in Eden, in the form of the British Crown Colony of the Seychelles, mainly populated by the impoverished descendants of slaves. Minor Colonial Office employee Rupert has been sent to report on the economy of these Indian Ocean islands, a posting that requires the reluctant uprooting of wife Penelope and daughters Zara and Chloe. The novel opens with a sea voyage in 1960. Rupert, who “did not consider himself the philandering type,” flirts with another woman while Penelope is felled by seasickness; toddler Chloe, victim of her eight-year-old sister’s bullying, goes missing but then reappears without explanation. A pattern of inconsistencies and reverses continues on the island. First Penelope, previously happily married and faithful, has a grim affair with the governor. Then Rupert succumbs to his secretary Joelle, a strikingly lovely local woman who is both manipulative and sincerely affectionate. She eventually succeeds in breaking up Rupert’s marriage, then gets pregnant. Witch doctors and grigri (island magic) feature prominently as Zara plots to reunite her parents, and Joelle uses spells to drive Penelope back to England. Shifts of motivation dog the sometimes farcical story line until the novel turns darker, as the grigri finally claims a victim.

Despite moments of lyricism, more sensational than subtle.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-56947-602-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

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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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