An author’s note reveals Shekleton’s intention to continue with Father Tierney’s story, and a considerable number of readers...

FATHER TIERNEY STUMBLES

Shekleton (A Jesuit Tale, 2000) begins his second novel moments after the title character, a closeted gay Catholic priest, tests HIV-positive.

Father Joe Tierney’s decision to seek advice from a trusted friend leads him to a clandestine support group for HIV-positive clergy. Meanwhile, a freelance reporter investigating the issue of AIDS in the Catholic priesthood moves closer to discovering the support group. Angela Roth, director of public relations for the diocese, undertakes her own research as she tries to formulate a measured response to increasing media scrutiny. The conflicts between Angela’s professional obligations and personal beliefs represent one of the novel’s highlights. Likewise, the author evokes Joe’s Mexican-American heritage by incorporating Spanish words and phrases that are authentic, yet unobtrusive for readers not familiar with Spanish. This well-paced narrative maintains a consistent sense of urgency, where each critical decision has potentially disastrous consequences. Although the use of clunky similes and metaphors can weigh down the narrative voice at times, Shekleton is generally more successful when he allows the characters to speak for themselves: “I guess I see myself as bruised, kind of like a corpse, a badly beaten corpse—a corpse like you’d find in a crime lab. The bruises, they’re deep….But the problem is: no one else sees the bruises. No one else knows how deep they go. I’m not even sure how deep they go.” This morbidly familiar image from television crime dramas goes a long way to illustrate the themes of identity—visible and invisible, embraced and stigmatized—at the heart of the novel. Those who wish to read of erotic adventures in the rectory will not find them here; sexual content is demure and understated. After all, the author seems to imply, sex is part of the story, but not the whole story.

An author’s note reveals Shekleton’s intention to continue with Father Tierney’s story, and a considerable number of readers may want to accompany him further in this exploration of faith, identity and community.

Pub Date: June 28, 2011

ISBN: 978-1462009268

Page Count: 246

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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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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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

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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