A relentless view of childhood and family life gone awry—with a few moments of transcendent beauty.


A harrowing debut about two kids on the run from New York City and their imploding families who find adventures aplenty—until they reach the end of the road.

In 1977, Bruiser is nine, old enough to run loose through his Upper West Side neighborhood while his uptight, adulterous Columbia art professor father grows angrier and his frustrated-poet mother grows more distant as their marriage sours. In the apartment across the courtyard from Bruiser’s window, ten-year-old Darla is increasingly harassed by her depressed single mother, until she decides she’s had enough and persuades Bruiser to flee with her. Stealing a few hundred dollars from their parents, the two children catch a bus to West Virginia, where Darla’s father—whom she hasn’t heard from in three years—lives, but they find no trace of him. Miraculously, he does show up after they’ve settled in, but he’s en route with his girlfriend to a West Coast ashram and stays only long enough to tip off their parents about where to find them. They escape again, this time in a rail car full of oranges, in search of Bruiser’s friend from the previous summer, who moved to North Carolina. A lonely Japanese farmer takes them in briefly, but Bruiser smashes the man’s tractor and himself into a tree, hurting his face so badly that he loses hearing in one ear. On the road again, the kids reach the friend’s place—but he’s moved away. In pain and dispirited, Bruiser just wants to go home; Darla reluctantly agrees, although she insists they take the scenic route through the Outer Banks—where a hurricane is about to hit. The resulting convergence of childhood will and elemental force gives rise to another miracle, but only for Bruiser. He gets home, battered and completely deaf, to parents who are now separated but still feuding.

A relentless view of childhood and family life gone awry—with a few moments of transcendent beauty.

Pub Date: March 25, 2003

ISBN: 0-7434-3775-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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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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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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