THE LIBERTY CAMPAIGN

American Innocence revisited: a retiring adman's spiritual stock-taking acquires dramatic urgency when he learns that his suburban neighbor may be a war criminal. Gene Trowbridge is an advertising executive with a home on Long Island. The 64-year-old Gene is readying himself for retirement and adjustments in his long, loving marriage to wife Ellie when a reporter buttonholes him, asking questions about his reclusive neighbor Albert Ferdinand. His curiosity piqued, Gene befriends Ferdinand; pressed hard, Ferdinand concedes that he's the former Brazilian Army captain who (as the newspaper alleges) oversaw the torture of civilians in the 1960's. But Ferdinand insists that whatever wrong he did in the war against Communism is a private matter ``between me and my God''; his task now is preparing for death and (hopefully) divine acceptance. All this is taxing for Gene, a decent but ``morally undeveloped'' man without a compass in this world of men who torture, and die, for their beliefs. As the authorities and human-rights activists close in, Ferdinand appeals to his friend for help—but Gene finds himself paralyzed, unable to act. Gene works in a business where ``our allegiances are always for sale''; he lives in the reflected glory of a son who is a major-league baseball player; and the story begins on the Fourth of July. While Dee may be pushing Gene's quintessentially American situation too hard, this spellbinding second novel (The Lover of History, 1990) reads like anything but schematic. With a true novelist's flair, the author forestalls our rush to judgment by making the reporter obnoxious and Ferdinand a figure of dignified pathos. Dee's graceful assumption of an older man's voice, his mastery of an elegiac tone, is every bit as impressive as Ishiguro's achievement in The Remains of the Day.

Pub Date: July 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-385-42595-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1993

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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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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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