Devastating; as unforgettable as it is gorgeous.

MARLENA

Sensitive and smart and arrestingly beautiful, debut novelist Buntin’s tale of the friendship between two girls in the woods of Northern Michigan makes coming-of-age stories feel both urgent and new.

Fifteen-year-old Cat catches her first glimpse of Marlena as they’re unloading the U-Haul; Cat’s parents have just gotten divorced, the most obvious consequence of which is that her mother has moved the remainder of the family from the suburbs of Detroit to Silver Lake, a rural town in Northern Michigan, 20 minutes from the nearest grocery store stocking vegetables. It is a meeting both unremarkable and life-changing. “The details of her in my memory are so big and clear they almost can’t quite be true,” Cat says, looking back. “Her arms were slicked with snowmelt and pimpled from the cold; her hair gave off a burnt-wood smell when she shook it out of her face, the way she often did before she spoke.” Over the course of the coming weeks, they become friends, and then best friends, their lives wholly and intensely intertwined. Magnetic and kind and very, very troubled, Marlena introduces the once-studious Cat to a new world of drinking and pills and sex and also friendship, the depth of which neither girl has experienced before. And still, there are parts of Marlena’s life Cat cannot reach and doesn’t understand: Cat knows someday she’ll be leaving Silver Lake; Marlena knows she won’t. She’s right. With time, Marlena slips further away, swallowed up by drugs and desperation, and by the end of the year she is dead, having drowned alone in a shallow, freezing river in the unforgiving woods. It could so easily be clichéd or sentimental. It is neither. Jumping between their teenage friendship in Michigan and Cat’s adult life in New York City, Buntin creates a world so subtle and nuanced and alive that it imprints like a memory.

Devastating; as unforgettable as it is gorgeous.

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62779-764-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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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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