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Williams is in top form here (State of Grace, 1990, etc.), her outrage balanced by a wise, compassionate, bemused overview....

A highly original coming-of-ager that integrates the gothic and magical realism in its consideration of families, youth, souls, and the fates of species.

Alice, age 16 and living with her grandparents outside Phoenix, rants about ecological disaster and animal slaughter. On her treks through the desert—primers for naturalists—she sees the functions and habits of desert life as comparable to the human spirit and nature: “Plants were lucky because when they adapted it wasn’t considered a compromise. It was more difficult for a human being, a girl.” Despite that difficulty, adapt she does, often miraculously well. Only hours after being ripped off and abandoned in the desert by an adult employer, Alice sits back home eating cheese sandwiches and spaghetti. The story rolls from the disturbing and frightening to the surreally banal, with Alice’s psyche as the roller-coaster’s engine. Her friend Annabel arrives in the desert from back east, where her mother recently died. Her sexually confused and enormously wealthy father, Carter, is trying to escape his dead wife Ginger’s ghost—to no avail. Hilarious scenes between Carter and said ghost raise marital bickering from the mundane to the cosmic. In a somewhat dizzying middle passage that cross-cuts between characters and events, a house burns down, a dog is hung, a 19-year-old drifter carries a dead bighorn ram across his back, a panicked deer thrashes in a swimming pool, a gay piano-player contemplates bathtub suicide, and an eight-year-old poet pickets against taxidermy outside a museum of stuffed animals. In an upended noir motif, Carter tries to hire Alice to kill his already dead wife. The dead, in this novel, are as restless as the living.

Williams is in top form here (State of Grace, 1990, etc.), her outrage balanced by a wise, compassionate, bemused overview. Think Denis Johnson’s world, minus the drugs—ultimately, though, Williams echoes only herself in a risky, frisky, profound book.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2000

ISBN: 0-679-44646-X

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2000

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Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

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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