A thoughtful, caring examination of race, class, and wealth in America.

THE PLACE YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO LAUGH

A black teenager struggles to come to terms with his identity, his troubled past, and his broken home in Silicon Valley.

The year is 2002, and 14-year-old Chad Loudermilk is trying to cope as best he can. He’s black, but everyone in his surrounding community of Palo Alto is white, the parents who adopted him included. His family is falling apart—his father, Ray, is struggling to make ends meet while constantly comparing himself to their wealthy neighbors, the MacAvoys, while his mother, Allison, is struggling with the recent death of her mother. When Chad’s only friend, Walter Chen, falls ill, things with the MacAvoys reach a breaking point, and Palo Alto begins to turn into modern Silicon Valley, Chad finds himself thinking more and more about his birthparents in a quest to connect with where he came from and figure out who he wants to be. An array of diverse characters peppers Rossmann’s debut, which brims with the essence of the early years of the century. Allison’s sister, Diana Marchese, feels the fullest of the cast, and scenes of her romantic entanglements at academic conferences and reflections on romance, aging, and life feel fresh and true to life. Rossmann, who is white, takes on the tough challenge of making her main character a black teenager, and though Chad is vivid and his growth drives the narrative, certain moments that center on race and racial anxiety can feel grating, such as when Rossmann describes a party crowd as “black and Latino, throbbing to the beat of the music as if organically connected to it.” Though the novel suffers from slight lethargy at its outset, it picks up quite effectively, has a strong finish, and stands as a testament to a changing city in a changing country at a defining time in history.

A thoughtful, caring examination of race, class, and wealth in America.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9913687-2-3

Page Count: 330

Publisher: 7.13 Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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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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