RESERVATION ROAD

The complex stages of guilt, grief, and recovery in the wake of a boy’s hit-and-run death are exquisitely portrayed in this heartrending story by Schwartz (Bicycle Days, 1989), whose characterizations are as finely nuanced as they are sympathetic. Ten-year-old Josh Learner barely knew what hit him that summer night in northwestern Connecticut, on the way back from a symphony picnic with his family; for the three adults—his parents and the driver of the speeding car—who saw what happened, it was as if their lives stopped then, too. His father Ethan, an English professor at a small college nearby, bears guilt for not having insisted that Josh come away from the road; his mother Grace is guilt-ridden as well, for having insisted they stop at the gas station so that Josh’s sister Emma could use the restroom; and Dwight, running late after seeing a Red Sox game with his son and worried about the wrath of his ex at not having Sam back on time, not only has to bear the certainty of having killed someone Sam’s age, but also the fact that the sleeping boy received a black eye from the accident—to go along with the broken jaw that Dwight had given him accidentally on another occasion. In the ensuing months, Ethan tries to carry on while Grace shuts down almost completely, losing her business and her bearings. The police investigation goes nowhere, and when Ethan blows up at the officer in charge, he guarantees there’ll be no further help from that quarter. Dwight, meanwhile, has let his legal practice go to hell, alienated himself from Sam and everyone else, and taken to heavy drinking while waiting for someone to find him out. After more than a year, Ethan finally does—and as the first snow of that year falls, they enact a ritual of revenge both primal and fitting. Rarely have three lives in crisis been detailed with such compassion and care: a tragic, utterly absorbing tale. (First printing of 100,000)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-375-40263-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1998

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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