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THE EXISTENCE OF PITY

A sensitive work from a very promising author.

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In Zokan’s debut novel, the members of an American Baptist missionary family in Cali, Colombia, confront some surprising secrets.

Teenager Josie Wales, the kid sister of Aaron and the daughter of Henry and Astrid, narrates this story of a fateful summer in the family’s lives. It’s 1976, Josie is soon to enter her junior year of high school, and Aaron, his senior year. The season’s first bombshell hits when Josie discovers that her father’s mysterious errands are to see and support a woman with whom he secretly fathered a child. Henry is contrite, and he and Astrid try to work through the situation. The other woman, Samara, then tricks them into taking care of the baby, whose name is Piedad Maria. If the mission hierarchy finds out that the child is Henry’s, he could lose his position, which would put the family back in the United States, adrift. Then a second bombshell goes off, involving Astrid, which shakes the family to its roots. Josie’s only confidante is young Blanca, a Colombian housekeeper, and the teen begins to flirt with Catholicism. To her parents, this nascent apostasy is morally worse than what they’ve done—even though sneaky, unpleasant Aaron is hardly a model child. As Josie navigates her family situation, she deals with typical, young-love issues with her boyfriend. Overall, this is an offbeat coming-of-age story, albeit a brutal one, and Josie is perfect in her role as the story’s protagonist and moral center. Zokan effectively shows how the teenager heroically tries to make things right and to get her family members to stop their denial and hypocritical behavior—and they are revealed to be very ugly Americans indeed. The reader aches for a happier ending, as Henry, Astrid, and Aaron appear to have learned nothing, satisfying themselves that somehow all their misfortunes were Josie’s fault. Intriguingly, however, they haven’t ostracized the protagonist at all—they’ve liberated her.

A sensitive work from a very promising author.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-940215-80-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

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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