No matter a person’s ethnic or cultural background, this book is relatable.


Lester’s (Black, White, Other, 2011, etc.) poignant narrative probes the relationship between a mother and her biracial daughter.

Young Lizzie O’Leary is a starry-eyed idealist who drops out of college in 1963 and heads to Greenwood, Miss., to become a civil rights volunteer. When she meets and falls in love with Solomon Jordan, an African-American musician and recent college graduate, they move to San Francisco. Fifteen years later, their biracial marriage has produced two children, Ruby and Che, who’ve been raised to identify with their black heritage. Lizzie spouts the doctrine and attends the rallies—whenever Solomon doesn’t try to keep her hidden away from his Black Panther colleagues—but her white skin and flaming red hair brand her as an outsider. However, Lizzie’s an activist who’s adopted feminist beliefs as well, and she’s angry that Solomon spends so much time outside the home while she’s expected to raise the children and care for the house. Their constant arguments lead to divorce, and when Lizzie and Solomon split up, Che goes to live with his father, and Ruby’s forced to stay with her mother. An angry young teenager, Ruby resents Lizzie both for what she perceives her to be (self-absorbed and racist) and what she knows she cannot be (someone who can empathize with her feelings as a person with a culturally diverse background). Contributing to the frayed relationship is the fact that Lizzie attacks her mothering role with vigor while also going to the opposite extreme. She recruits a biracial woman to mentor Ruby and then has an affair with her. Lizzie tries to engage Ruby in mother–daughter time by cultivating a garden, but she forgets to pick her up after hockey practice. She encourages her daughter to become self-sufficient by refusing to cook but insists on hiring a baby sitter for Ruby on the evenings she works late. The struggle to heal the rift between the two is both complex and emotional. Lester writes well about a subject familiar to her: She’s a member of a biracial family, and her previous book, geared toward young adults, addresses the same issue.

No matter a person’s ethnic or cultural background, this book is relatable.

Pub Date: May 28, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4516-9318-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet



A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

Did you like this book?

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...


An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet