A son raised by two talented lesbians—Claire the photographer and Theo the gourmet chef and caterer—narrates this solid first novel. Much of the premise tends toward the unbelievable, particularly two women finding a way to practice artificial insemination in 1965 (the year Willy is born) and the narrator later running away from home and living with the homeless under the streets. Most often, however, the excellent writing carries off these implausible events. Then, too, since the adult Willy (now the father of twins) narrates the tale, it's possible that he may be relating a child's-eye view containing as much fantasy as fact. Either way, episodes like the story of Claire (his non-biological mother) using a bicycle to get a jar of donated sperm across town before it dies is a sufficiently captivating image. The same holds true for descriptions of the circle of eccentric, supportive friends surrounding Claire, Theo, and Willy. Rounding out this community are their two sets of parents: Theo's bizarre, free- spirited folks, who live in a trailer in Broken Arrow, Okla.; and Claire's uptight, Upper East Side mother and father. As for Willy, the most striking thing about him is his normality, since even in NYC his living arrangement was unusual—``In 1972 there were no picture books entitled Heather Has Two Mommies or Daddy's Roommate,'' he notes—and his elementary school days were less than peaceful, as he was taunted by classmates at the posh McCall School. Willy's candid voice is refreshing: While the details are occasionally precious, their narrator never is, and the story he tells moves steadily toward the inevitable family conflict that reflects the dissension growing between Theo and Claire as they discover that they have different ways of dealing with Willy's mistreatment at the hands of his peers. The fantasy and mythic weight of a fairy tale, undermined occasionally by cuteness.

Pub Date: June 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-312-13126-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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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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