A highly readable work of historical fiction that will appeal to teenagers as well as adults.

ANSHU

DARK SORROW

Kono’s (Ho'olulu Park and the Pepsodent Smile and Other Stories, 2004, etc.) debut full-length novel is a bildungsroman based on historical events, which traces a brave teenager’s journey to Tokyo during World War II.

For Himiko Aoki, a teenager living in Hawaii, life is anything but simple. Her father dies suddenly from an infection, leaving Himiko with her strict and often harsh mother and her cloying sister, Miyo. Himiko finds solace in the arms of Akira, her secret boyfriend, and the two comfort each other as the war around them looms ever closer, calling for rationing and constant concern. But Himiko’s sorrows are far from over; she becomes pregnant and is sent away to spare her the shame and grief that her own neighborhood would heap upon her. She arrives at the home of her aunt and uncle in Tokyo, where she is quickly put to work and treated by all except for her uncle as more of a burden and a slave than a relative. Himiko suffers verbal abuse from her aunt and cousin and is subjected to a series of humiliations as she tries to navigate her new environment and struggles through the final stages of her pregnancy. Himiko learns quickly that she has only herself to count on and grows independent and fierce as she defends herself against her family and fights to survive the threat of war that has followed her. But Himiko’s newfound strength proves a liability when the war brings devastation to nearby Hiroshima, endangering the very family she has resented for so long. Himiko soon learns that there is sacrifice in survival, and that time will never heal some scars. Lyrical and almost hypnotic in its telling, Himiko’s story is written with a sure hand and a keen eye for detail. Himiko’s growth as a character is deeply felt, and the vivid characters she encounters make for a colorful, evocative read. Enriched with the texture of historical fact, the novel not only traces the trajectory of one girl’s coming-of-age, but also captures a time period fraught with tension and fear.

A highly readable work of historical fiction that will appeal to teenagers as well as adults.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-910043-83-0

Page Count: 327

Publisher: Bamboo Ridge Press

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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