An honest look at ugliness, hope, and love in a struggling small town.


In this debut novel, an act of destruction sends a high school football player’s life spiraling toward blessed terrain.

Eighteen-year-old Orville “Orv” Osentoski plays high school football in Canton, Michigan. Part of the state’s Thumb (five counties that are “economically and culturally depressed”), “Can’t Town” loves nothing more than high school sports and beer. One night after a game in neighboring Frankendorf, Orv falls asleep in the locker room, missing the team’s bus home. He shatters a urinal while escaping the locked building and then walks to a tavern called Der Bierstube. Inside he finds Canton’s town drunk, Matty MacDougall, and asks for a ride home. In Matty’s roach-infested 1966 Mercury Montego, the two tour several more bars. After hearing of Orv’s escape, Matty nicknames him Chief and repeats the story to anyone who’ll listen. In the Dunkel Bar, a bartender named Brenda Slohn—who has a large birthmark on her face—sits on Chief’s lap, giving the reserved teen a taste of the Thumb’s adult nightlife. But he also comes away from the experience realizing that Matty, out of Canton’s large crop of characters, has a “diamond-among-rhinestones affability.” He also can’t stop thinking about Brenda, who’s six years older than he is. In this ribald tale, MacNeil offers an unflinching examination of downturned America, where “landscapes are increasingly acned with strip malls and housing complexes,” and most adults consume at least six alcoholic drinks a day. While difficult subjects are explored, the prose delivers excellent psychological nuances; Chief’s father, Garland, strikes his mother and “watching his wife fly across the room reminded him of his football days, which unearthed a confusing mix of contradictory emotions, like...pride and worthlessness.” The author lightens the mood with puns and sexual commentary. When English teacher Liina “Ol’ Bitch” Olbich asks her students to write a paper about someone in Canton whom they admire, Chief’s determination to portray Matty favorably proves emotionally revelatory, for the town’s citizens and MacNeil’s audience. Overall, sweetness and levity battle with bawdiness for the tone of this story.

An honest look at ugliness, hope, and love in a struggling small town.

Pub Date: May 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5356-0712-4

Page Count: 330

Publisher: WaveCloud Corporation

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

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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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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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