Like a pair of distressed designer jeans, the narrative's scruffiness can feel a little too engineered, but the narrator's...



A young woman with a knack for trick shooting heads west in the late 1800s to track down her outlaw brother.

Jessilyn Harney, the folksy narrator of Larison’s third novel (Holding Lies, 2011, etc.), has grown up watching her family lose its grip on its prairie homestead: Her mother died young, and her father is an alcoholic scraping by with small cattle herds. He’s also persistently at loggerheads with Jess' brother, Noah, who eventually runs off to, if the wanted posters are to be believed, lead a Jesse James–style criminal posse. So when dad dies as well, there’s nothing for teenage Jess to do but head west to find her brother, which she does disguised as a man. (“A man can be invisible when he wants to be.”) Her skill with a gun gets her in the good graces of a territorial governor (Larison is stingy with place names, but we’re near the Rockies), which ultimately leads to Noah and a series of revelations about the false tales of accomplishment that men cloak themselves with. Indeed, Jess’ success depends on repeatedly exploiting false masculine bravado: “I found no shortage of men with a predilection for gambling and an unfounded confidence in their own abilities with a sidearm,” she writes. The novel’s plot is a familiar Western, with duels, raids, and betrayals, brought thematically up to date with a few scenes involving closeted sexuality and mixed-race relationships. But its main distinction is Jess’ narrative voice: flinty, compassionate, unschooled, but observant about a violent world where men “eat bullets and walk among ghosts.” The dialogue sometimes lapses into saloon-talk truisms (“Men is all the time hiding behind words”; “Being a boss is always knowing your true size”). But Jess herself is a remarkable hero.

Like a pair of distressed designer jeans, the narrative's scruffiness can feel a little too engineered, but the narrator's voice is engaging and down-to-earth.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2044-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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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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A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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