Ramedio and the Strangers

MARTINA'S EXCHANGE

Menapace (Letting Go of Mama, 2011) crafts a coming-of-age story that builds slowly but unfolds profoundly.

With a carefully balanced mix of harsh earnestness and dry humor, Jasper Windsock Jr. tells the story of his lifelong friend and occasional rival, Ramedio Kunstler. The bulk of the drama, which develops over the course of the 20th century in Pennsylvania’s coal country, derives from bitter, generations-old feuds among the Italian immigrant families that populate the Valhalla area. Reputations and political alliances are of the utmost importance, but in his early days, these issues seem to be of no concern to Ramedio. After tragically witnessing his father’s suicide, Ramedio is raised by his mentally unstable mother, Ramona, and his intelligent, if heavy-handed, stepfather, Dr. Walter Kunstler. Ramedio develops a love for music at an early age and, in his teenage years, decides that he and his band, Ramedio and the Rangers, are destined for stardom. But before the Rangers can really take off, he gets 17-year-old Martina Cardinelli pregnant. Following the demands of his stepfather, Ramedio marries Martina and is instantly embraced by her family; he loves Martina and feels more loved by her family than his own. However, none of this can last in their spiteful, clan-based society. The Kunstlers and Cardinellis clash while Ramedio struggles to make enough money as a musician. In the ultimate tragedy, Martina falls completely out of love with Ramedio. As Ramedio tries in vain to regain the love of his wife, Windsock recalls all the heartbreaking details. The events that follow, with Ramedio fleeing the town and returning to his music, are rendered with a surrealistic style and an air of irreverence that serve as a welcome release from the tense preceding chapters. The novel’s first half unfolds at a slower pace, but that proves to be Menapace setting the stage for the extremely gratifying series of resolutions, and nonresolutions, that follow.

Well-crafted and honest.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-1475250695

Page Count: 298

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2013

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

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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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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