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THE PROMISE OF PIERSON ORCHARD

An expertly paced, moving exploration of grief and responsibility and an eloquent portrait of a small town struggling with...

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A small-town family, torn apart by tragedy, must find a way to overcome their grievances when they face a common threat in Brandes’ debut novel.

Long before fracking ever came to Minden, Pennsylvania, the fissures in the Pierson family were developing into major fault lines. Brothers Jack and Wade were very young when their mother, Stella, abandoned them and never returned. Their stern father, Steve, is all they have—until Wade shoots him in a freak accident. After a frantic effort to reach out to his mother proves fruitless, Wade leaves town, carrying an understandably heavy burden of remorse. Twenty years on, Jack, who recently separated from his wife, LeeAnn, is an orchardist tending to acres of apple trees and making do in his economically depressed hometown. What the townspeople don’t know is that they could be sitting on vast reserves of Marcellus shale, an abundant source of natural gas. Before long, Green Energy, a fracking company, comes calling and sends in a star salesman with a few local connections: Wade. In response, Jack reaches out to their mom, now called Stella Brantley, who’s an established environmental lawyer, and convinces her that Minden should be the next battleground for pro bono activist work. The scene is set for confrontation: between the two siblings, between them and their mother, and between the small town and a large corporation. Brandes checks off all the boxes for quality fiction: the characters are well-rounded, the settings, such as the apple orchards, the crisp Silver Creek, and the rocky outcrops, are vividly described, and the plot is well-organized and crisply paced. The tension between the characters satisfyingly rises to a crescendo that’s in sync with the larger environmental crisis that threatens the town, although some of the drama feels contrived at times. Readers will hear echoes of author Richard Russo’s small-town stories here, although Brandes works on a smaller, less complex canvas.  

An expertly paced, moving exploration of grief and responsibility and an eloquent portrait of a small town struggling with compromise.

Pub Date: April 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-942545-51-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

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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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A LITTLE LIFE

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

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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