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MY FATHER’S NOTEBOOK

An intimate portrait of Iran, stuffed with ambition, but ultimately overladen.

Abdolah, an Iranian expatriate now living in the Netherlands, nests a story about a father and son into a sweeping novel that chronicles the tumultuous modern history of his homeland.

Aga Akbar was born an outsider twice over: He’s the illegitimate son of a nobleman as well as a deaf-mute. With the assistance of Kazem Khan, his colorful, opium-addicted uncle, he learns to communicate in his own form of sign language, find work as a carpet mender and start a family in a mountain town near the Soviet border. And though he never formally learned to read and write, he diligently filled a notebook using a cuneiform-like script inspired by a 3,000-year-old message written by the first king of Persia in a nearby cave. That notebook is the springboard for the plot here: Aga Akbar’s son, Ishmael, is a political dissident living in the Netherlands who’s struggling to decipher his father’s writing. In the process, Ishmael provides brief vignettes about Iran’s history, from the military dictatorship of Reza Khan that began the 1920s through the war with Iraq that consumed the country for most of the 1980s. Aga Akbar is buffeted by these changes despite his modest station: He’s jailed and beaten by officers during Reza Khan’s rein under suspicion of writing codes, and he endangers his life as Ishmael becomes more involved in the country’s leftist movement. Abdolah’s prose, translated from the Dutch, is clean and lyrical, but the novel ultimately feels unbalanced: The elegantly formed passages about Aga Akbar’s struggles and courtships in the first half give way to the second half, focused on Ishmael’s life, where politics is emphasized at the expense of storytelling. And because the key player in the climax of the book—Ishmael’s sister, Golden Bell—is so incompletely rendered, the book closes on a disappointingly unaffecting note.

An intimate portrait of Iran, stuffed with ambition, but ultimately overladen.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-059871-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2005

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MAGIC HOUR

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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THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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