Webster's rambling genealogical rundown has some humble charm, but his debut reads more like notes for a first draft than an actual novel. Hassalia, an African-American girl nicknamed ``Little Man'' by her family when she begins sporting glasses, talks about the life of Ma Rhetta, her grandmother, and other family members both chime in and are described in lengthy detail. About half this chatter is entertaining, but the many voices often blend together. Much of the dialogue is written in dialect (``I know you don't wanna be thinkin' 'bout no mens yet,'' Ma Rhetta warns Hassalia), and the relatives share a lot of verbal tics. The men have a habit of leaving; Ma Rhetta has borne four children by four different partners, and Hassalia notes, ``The daddies weren't there.'' Not all of these characters are promiscuous, however. One of Ma Rhetta's sons and his wife take six years to have a child, and then ``the two of 'em took so long to name him that 'til he was full grown hardly anybody ever used his real name.'' Each person has a story, usually hinging on a seminal moment. For example, Hassalia's Aunt Fanny took up with a white soldier, only to be abandoned on a train station bench after he had invited her to run away; then she went crazy. There are tangled tales of incest and love affairs that lead to violence. Hassalia is shocked to discover, especially from her mother, that Ma Rhetta was not always a nice person. The plot is difficult to follow and ultimately seems beside the point. The characters remain characters rather than people, and their stories remain stories rather than lives. Despite the geographic and emotional hyper-closeness of this clan, they sound distanced when discussing themselves and one another. A family reunion at which pleasure is scarce.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 1994

ISBN: 0-932511-93-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: FC2/Northwestern Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1994

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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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