A messy love story packed with nostalgia.

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THE PRESERVATIONISTS

A teenager moves from a run-down, coal mining town to an artistic haven in this debut novel.

Eighteen-year-old Daniel McHale is just about to graduate from high school when tragedy strikes: His single mother suddenly dies, leaving him and his twin brother, Dustin, uncertain about their futures. Daniel, the dreamier of the two, confides in Jane Hatfield, the owner of the local bookstore, who tells him that if he wants to make anything of himself, he needs to leave town. Luckily, she has a friend who rears horses in the city of Jenningsburg who’s looking for a hired hand. Soon Daniel is off to a new life of hard but fulfilling labor for tough, good-natured Kathy Delaney, who moonlights as an artist and helps nurture his love for antiques and historic buildings. Everything changes, though, when Daniel meets Amelia Branagan, a violist in a Celtic band who visits Jenningsburg every summer: “He knew this one was special. He wasn’t sure why yet, he just knew his soul was singing, his heart was tingling, and his stomach was alive with hundreds of butterflies dancing about.” Daniel and Amelia begin spending their weekends together, going on long hikes to waterfalls and taking a historic, steam-powered train to a restored Shaker village. Before Amelia leaves to go on tour, Daniel works up the courage to confess his love to her. But she demurs, unwilling to enter a long-distance relationship. When she returns a year later, will Daniel convince her that she’s truly “the woman of his dreams”? This heartfelt novel’s strong beliefs in the ways of the past, devoted love, and the beauties of nature are quite admirable. But Daniels’ tale, which offers two artistic protagonists, sometimes suffers from blandness and clichés, both in its main romantic plot (“Amelia’s voice was like the choir of 100 angels. Looking into her eyes was like looking at the stars”) and in the bizarre woodenness of its descriptions: “His face was slender, his nose wasn’t large, but it was bigger than the national average for a man of his age and race.” And just as the town Daniel grows up in has very few redeeming qualities, his experiences in Jenningsburg are so hyperbolically positive (“enchanting,” “magical,” “poetry would be written about it”) that the effect at times becomes numbing.

A messy love story packed with nostalgia.

Pub Date: May 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68433-054-6

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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