A compassionate tribute to hate-crime victims.

A GATHERING STORM

Currier (The Forever Marathon, 2013, etc.) explores Matthew Shepard’s murder in richly empathetic fiction.

Currier recently unearthed his manuscript, written in the wake of Matthew Shepard’s death in 1998. Though set in a small town in the South, “This story could happen anywhere.” Rick and A.J. meet Danny, a gay college student, in a bar and beat him in their truck before leaving him for dead, tied to a fence post. Subsequent chapters bounce between back story and aftereffects, deftly interspersing hospital and police station scenes with vignettes from Danny’s everyday life. After a roadside rape and attempted suicide, Danny wonders how to be a homosexual in the Bible Belt. It is simple to hook up with strangers but impossible “To be out, open, romantically gay in a small town like this.” Written in powerful, choppy sentences and consciously patterned after screenplays and true-crime stories, Currier’s novel is told in the present tense, shifting among the perspectives of the many characters involved. Effective litanies of phrases beginning with “He will not”—“He will not see the snow. But he will feel the cold, his arms numb”—contrast Danny’s carefree activities on the day before the crime with his current incapacitation, revealing the legacy he will not live to see. One bravely cinematic chapter traces a blood sample’s journey to the laboratory. Technical and emotive languages are given equal importance: “his neural repatternings are transforming him into pure spirit”; “Cords snake around chairs, looking for outlets.” Currier’s sympathy also extends to the perpetrators, as he uncovers sexual traumas in their pasts. In a sensitive juxtaposition of Christian responses to homosexuality, the openness of Rev. Fletcher combats the intolerance of Rev. White, who brings his “God Hates Fags” message to town to boycott Danny’s funeral. Readers might find it difficult to keep the many characters straight, especially since most chapters simply open with “He” or “She,” but the large cast shows how widely a crime’s ripples extend. “The story mushrooms, grows branches” and eventually affects us all,” Currier writes. In 1998, he felt “the crime was analyzed and politicized but oddly not humanized”; here he imbues it with human warmth.

A compassionate tribute to hate-crime victims.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1937627201

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Chelsea Station Editions

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

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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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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