A story as observant and thoughtful as the lives of Irish monks; rewarding for contemplative readers.

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HILLWALKING

Ridnouer’s debut novel relates the gentle spiritual journey undertaken by three American women living in Dublin.

The number three manifests throughout this tale of longing for meaning and love, and no more so than in the trinity of women examining their mundane lives in Ireland’s Fair City. Uprooted from the U.S. by their husbands, Jamie, Christy and Heather come together as hillwalking companions. They are drawn to Glendalough Valley in the Wicklow Mountains, where rises and vales of dewy green shelter ancient stone churches and holy wells—an apt backdrop to this meditative story. Each woman carries a burden of lost children or illness, and they wander unhappily through life until each finds a passion that transcends mere occupation. Heather becomes intrigued and artistically inspired by Saint Kevin, the founder of Glendalough’s monastic settlement; the 6th-century monk’s philosophies illuminate her own spiritual style, one in which Celtic paganism lies just beneath the surface. Christy, desperate for a baby, befriends a lonely girl in her apartment building, while Jamie, the skeptic, becomes captivated by the labyrinth at Glendalough and begins work on her own spiraling path. The women alternate between closeness with one another and their children and a growing distance from their unsympathetic husbands. But it’s not all reflection and insight: Heather and Jamie’s likable children are a nearly constant, squabbling and pouting presence. Ridnouer balances poetic descriptions with extremely casual, often pointed dialogue, peppered with words like “whatcha” and “didja.” She also does a fine job portraying the temporal, frequently amusing details of an expat American’s life in a city more than 1,000 years old. At heart, this novel is a spiritual quest, with portents, metaphor and prodigious symbolism. In time, each woman arrives at the end of her winding path changed in some quietly momentous way.

A story as observant and thoughtful as the lives of Irish monks; rewarding for contemplative readers.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1463768270

Page Count: 251

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

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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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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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