Placide vividly evokes the Haitian immigrant community in her compelling debut. Although Mardi Desravines alone among her family was actually born in the US, she spent most of her childhood with her grandmother in Haiti. But her beloved Uncle Perrin’s involvement in the unrest of 1991 forces Mardi and her extended family to flee to her parents’ home in New York. Two years later, Mardi still has trouble fitting in, despite her intelligence and diligence. She is mocked as an “island girl” by her classmates, while her close-knit family accuses her of becoming “fresh” and unruly. It gradually appears that something deeper haunts Mardi, something that causes her to put rocks in her bed to prevent dreams and to punish herself with blows and cuts. Her hidden torment boils over with her uncle’s sudden reappearance. While the chronological jumps in the narrative can be disconcerting, Placide does a fine job of slowly uncovering the reasons for Mardi’s anguish and shame. The final revelation (that she was raped by soldiers while in hiding) is depicted with delicacy, and her family’s angry shock and clumsy but sincere support feels painfully genuine. Mardi’s voice is direct, honest, and deceptively simple, peppered with both French and Créole made clear in context, and the setting is redolent with the tastes, smells, and sounds of the neighborhood. The glimpses of the supporting characters are sufficiently rich as to leave the reader wondering about their untold stories. An absorbing window into a vibrant, complex community. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-32753-6

Page Count: 213

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2001

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After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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Eddie, a young Mexican-American scraping by in the mean streets of Fresno, California, counts four dead relatives and one dead friend in the opening, in-your-face lines of this new novel from Soto (Snapshots from the Wedding, p. 228, etc.). In bleak sentences of whispered beauty, Eddie tells how he dropped out of vocational college and is attempting to get by with odd jobs. His aunt and friends want him to avenge the recent murder of his cousin, but Eddie just wants to find a way out. Everything he tries turns soura stint doing yard work ends when his boss's truck is stolen on Eddie's watchand life is a daily battle for survival. This unrelenting portrait is unsparing in squalid details: The glue sniffers, gangs, bums, casual knifings, filth, and stench are in the forefront of a life without much hope``Laundry wept from the lines, the faded flags of poor, ignorant, unemployable people.'' Soto plays the tale straightthe only sign of a ``happy'' ending is in Eddie's joining the Navy. The result is a sort of Fresno Salaam Bombay without the pockets of humanity that gave the original its charm. A valuable tale, it's one that makes no concessions. (glossary) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-15-201333-4

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1997

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