To the book’s credit, Mohr never loses the story’s emotional heart.

FIGHT SONG

A midlife crisis takes a handful of surreal turns in Joshua Mohr’s (Damascas, 2011, etc.) latest novel.

Bob Coffen has two kids, a suburban home, an athlete wife whom he adores and a successful career building violent video games. But as his marriage begins to crumble, Bob’s life becomes unhinged in sometimes amusing, sometimes poignant ways. The story opens on a bad day for Bob: He’s been insulted by his boss and nearly run over by his neighbor, Schumann, a macho type who’s never gotten over his football-hero past. Then, his wife, Jane, drags him to a marital seminar held by magician Bjorn the Bereft, whose conjuring tricks literally put Bob’s marriage on thin ice. When Jane throws him out of the house, Bob enlists Schumann as his coach and begins a quest to pull himself together. He first bonds with Tilda, a waitress at his favorite fast-food joint who has a profitable sideline doing phone sex through the takeout intercom. His other new friend is Ace, a janitor at his company who moonlights in a Kiss tribute band that sings everything in French, hence their name, French Kiss. While Bob designs a bestiality-themed game, Jane trains to set a world record for treading water. Mohr has a clever imagination, and this book's elaborate jokes sometimes overdo the cleverness: Schumann, who speaks entirely in football-coach lingo, can be too much of a cartoon. But the story also hinges on some universal issues, namely, Bob’s struggles to rekindle his romance, recapture his creativity and regain control of his life.

To the book’s credit, Mohr never loses the story’s emotional heart.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59376-508-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2012

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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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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