THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP

Book-club spotlighting is bound to introduce Irving's particular brio to its largest audience yet; his newest book is characteristically broad and eager, Heir to a shoe-manufacturing fortune and a Wellesley dropout, Jenny Fields becomes a nurse, which isn't quite the thing for a girl of her station. Girls of her station also have some use for men, while Jenny uses one man for one purpose only and only once: she calculatedly gets herself impregnated by an accidentally lobotomized war-veteran patient, Technical Sergeant Garp. Moreover, Jenny defies convention by writing and publishing, late in life, a memoir (entitled "A Sexual Suspect") that quickly becomes a feminist bible. Her son, T. S. Garp (named for his father), grows up meanwhile with writerly instincts of Ids own; Jenny whisks him off to Austria for an education richer in life than college would afford, and Irving shuffles Jenny offstage in order to concentrate on young Garp: his marriage to bookish Helen, his two young sons, Helen's half-hearted affair with a graduate student, and then a grotesque accident involving the entire family that maims one son, kills the other, and (by plot-tinkering) literally dismembers the cuckolding grad student. Also offered are samples of Garp's manuscripts during this time, presumably objective correlatives to Garp's life at the time, but more like a handy hole for loose and incompatible prose efforts the book would not otherwise graciously host. Jenny comes back near book's end, getting herself assassinated at a feminist political rally, but it's Garp's (and Irving's) version of the world that's in control by then. That version is richly anecdotal—almost a brocade of digression—and mostly involved with the same basically inert topics that Irving's earlier books were made of: Vienna, wrestling, wife-swapping, boy's schools, novelists. Despite the withit trappings (feminism, etc.), Irving's wild stylistic scrabble up and down the keys resolves itself into a few leaden theme chords that his veteran readers will wish that he'd broken free of by now. But this hint of staleness will be all but totally disguised to first-time readers: Irving's style and zest remain superb, and his fondness for children—his anxiety over them and their welfare—is as rare and fine and affecting and pure as Heller's or Cheever's.

Pub Date: May 1, 1978

ISBN: 0679603069

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1978

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more