A homeless youth in San Francisco searches for true freedom in Rush’s debut.

Bo, a student in San Francisco, is eager to escape the confines of his dysfunctional family. He gets two tantalizing glimpses of a world beyond his own: first, an older homeless man named Ronnie buys him alcohol and tells him about the true freedom that comes from being homeless; then he meets Violet, a free-spirited runaway to whom he is immediately drawn. After his alcoholic mother dies, Bo packs up, leaving behind his sister and his stepfather and goes to live in Golden Gate Park with Violet. His blissful time with Violet ends abruptly when her ex-boyfriend is freed from jail, and she leaves Bo. Alone, broke and desperate, Bo runs into Ronnie again and joins in his pursuit of true freedom. Together, they steal food, do drugs, but most of all try to survive in the brutal underbelly of San Francisco. For all the thrills, Bo cannot sustain this life, and the questions becomes whether he can be saved from the downward spiral that he has let himself fall into. Rush’s account is moving, and he captures both the initial joy of Bo’s freedom from the binds of his family and his quick descent into addiction and misery. Rush does well when he portrays the loneliness of not only Bo but of all the homeless men and women Bo encounters on the street. Rush’s portraits of individual members of the homeless community are especially striking, giving a face not only to younger members like Bo, but to veterans, the disabled and the mentally ill who have been on the streets their entire lives. The loneliness these people face, along with Bo’s own struggles, give the story its strongest element, and even when Rush’s writing meanders, the overall quest to escape loneliness makes the book a solid depiction of homelessness in San Francisco. A full rendering of the highs and lows of being homeless.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2011

ISBN: 978-1450274852

Page Count: 192

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2012

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Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.


The time is the not-so-distant future, when the US's spiraling social freedoms have finally called down a reaction, an Iranian-style repressive "monotheocracy" calling itself the Republic of Gilead—a Bible-thumping, racist, capital-punishing, and misogynistic rule that would do away with pleasure altogether were it not for one thing: that the Gileadan women, pure and true (as opposed to all the nonbelieving women, those who've ever been adulterous or married more than once), are found rarely fertile.

Thus are drafted a whole class of "handmaids," whose function is to bear the children of the elite, to be fecund or else (else being certain death, sent out to be toxic-waste removers on outlying islands). The narrative frame for Atwood's dystopian vision is the hopeless private testimony of one of these surrogate mothers, Offred ("of" plus the name of her male protector). Lying cradled by the body of the barren wife, being meanwhile serviced by the husband, Offred's "ceremony" must be successful—if she does not want to join the ranks of the other disappeared (which include her mother, her husband—dead—and small daughter, all taken away during the years of revolt). One Of her only human conduits is a gradually developing affair with her master's chauffeur—something that's balanced more than offset, though, by the master's hypocritically un-Puritan use of her as a kind of B-girl at private parties held by the ruling men in a spirit of nostalgia and lust. This latter relationship, edging into real need (the master's), is very effectively done; it highlights the handmaid's (read Everywoman's) eternal exploitation, profane or sacred ("We are two-legged wombs, that's all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices"). Atwood, to her credit, creates a chillingly specific, imaginable night-mare. The book is short on characterization—this is Atwood, never a warm writer, at her steeliest—and long on cynicism—it's got none of the human credibility of a work such as Walker Percy's Love In The Ruins. But the scariness is visceral, a world that's like a dangerous and even fatal grid, an electrified fence.

Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 1985

ISBN: 038549081X

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1985

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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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