A mournfully funny ode to the worst in everybody: “It wasn’t a race thing; it wasn’t a religion thing; it was a crumb thing.”


The worst town in the world starts to seem like not such a bad place after all.

Second-novelist Connelly (Bringing Out the Dead, 1998) rips the lid off another simmering stew of malcontented urbanites, his prose leaping off from the opening line (“Don Reedy was a boy so briefly he often forgot it happened”) and barely taking a breath thereafter. Don Reedy is a sad-luck loser: in just ten pages he goes from bad car thief to feloniously bad driver to mafia lackey to stickup man—with generous dollops of jail time between each ill-advised career move. Cut to the present, and Reedy’s been paroled in order to serve as technical adviser on a new TV show being shot in his home city of Crumbtown—a falling-apart East Coast burg. The show is loosely based on the exploits that most recently landed Reedy in jail: a series of bank robberies in which Reedy and his cohorts were famous for throwing cash into the air afterward and creating mass hysteria in the streets outside the banks. Of course, his first day on the set, Reedy falls in love. Rita is a hard-bitten Russian waitress with a psychotic husband she’s been trying to leave for years—who’s fallen for Reedy as well. Complicating Reedy’s life on the set are Tim and Tom, a pair of drunks who bungled most of Reedy’s bank jobs and now manage to stumble idiotically into trouble on just about every other page. Connelly’s junky auto prose—it rattles along endearingly—sings out from every page of this broken-down dream of a book. The men are laughably pathetic, the women are tougher than nails, and the characters have an amazing propensity for getting run over by old cars.

A mournfully funny ode to the worst in everybody: “It wasn’t a race thing; it wasn’t a religion thing; it was a crumb thing.”

Pub Date: March 17, 2003

ISBN: 0-375-41364-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

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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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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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