Evison moves his narrative backward and forward through time, taking a leisurely approach to telling a story that is seldom...

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Well-plotted, literate novel of the 19th-century settling of a corner of the West and the still-resounding echoes of decisions made long ago.

The Olympic Peninsula, west of Seattle, Wash., was little known even to Native American people until very recent times, thanks to its “chaos of snow-clad ranges colliding at odd angles, a bulwark of spiny ridges defending a hulking central range like the jaws of a trap.” Those imposing mountains long defied exploration and exploitation, but in time, as sophomore novelist Evison (All About Lulu, 2008) explains, they drew a particular kind of person who just wouldn’t go away, seeing in them the promise of endless wealth. So it is with James Mather, an “Arctic explorer, Indian fighter, and rugged individual” who arrives in the soggy outpost of Port Bonita with orders from the governor to bring the place under the aegis of civilization. Ethan Thornburgh, young and dissolute, has a somewhat different vision: He aims to turn the mountains into money, the better to make the place his own domain. The communitarians (“Weren’t they socialists or something?” asks a latter-day resident of the place, none too well versed in history), squatters and Indians who live nearby have different visions still. Much of Evison’s story—which, naturally, involves a headstrong pioneer woman—is conventional, though, borrowing a page from Ivan Doig’s Winter Brothers (1980), it makes room for closely observed notes on American Indian life as seen through the lens of a couple of key players. What brings the story to life, though, is Evison’s juxtaposition of a century past with a much different present, in which the derring-do of our forebears is seen as so much criminality, and the things that they built—particularly dams—as so many insults to the land that require undoing and atonement.

Evison moves his narrative backward and forward through time, taking a leisurely approach to telling a story that is seldom dramatic, but that Westerners will recognize as their own.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-56512-952-8

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2011

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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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