RUN Ragged

In this dystopian suspense novel, a falsely imprisoned woman learns grim lessons about the new world order during her stint in a re-education camp in a postwar, matriarchal society.

This sequel to Aguila’s Women’s Work (2013) returns to a post-apocalyptic Pacific Northwest society in which a devastating war between the sexes has left women in power, and they place severe restrictions on men. This novel focuses on Rhia, a secondary character in the previous novel, who’s now tasked with delivering essential supplies to three coastal neighborhoods using her battered old boat, Betty. She goes overboard during a storm and gets rescued by two exiles, John and Carol. The trio, waylaid by Rhia’s injuries, get captured and taken to a re-education center for their alleged “transgressions.” The sickeningly sweet Miss Deacon runs the camp and seeks to transform the inmates into docile, compliant citizens. Rhia is hopeful that she’ll be released shortly and finds strength in her roommate, Ruth, whose will to resist remains unbroken. Rhia also comes to realize that the male prisoners are subject to barbaric experiments. Faced with the grim reality that she’s not getting out anytime soon, she befriends one of the male inmates and begins to hatch a plot to escape the camp and return to her boat. However, the leaders of the camp—and others—have different plans. The novel’s slow-burn plot and nuanced characters will draw in regular readers of dystopian fiction. Meanwhile, its multifaceted discussion of issues surrounding gender and power will appeal to those looking for more than just a beach read. For example, male prisoners are forced to “experience what pregnancy feels like. An expanding balloon is surgically inserted into their abdomen, and it’s filled up with saline over the next nine months.” The book works very well as a stand-alone novel, but it may be more fully appreciated in the context of its predecessor. Aguila’s depiction of this engaging world is sure to leave many readers impatient for the next installment.  A captivating story and a thought-provoking consideration of gender, systemic inequality, and the cost of willful ignorance.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9911650-3-2

Page Count: 334

Publisher: Coley Press

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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