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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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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