Unapologetically searing and catastrophically truthful, a reminder to readers that it demands much to meet harsh realities...

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SOLDIER BOY

Spanning the conflict-laden years of Uganda’s recent history, this debut novel–meets-biography is based on the true story of a former enslaved child soldier who escaped and found his own salvation in providing sanctuary for children who suffered a similar fate.

Ricky Richard Anywar was abducted as a child soldier in 1989 to fight for the Lord’s Resistance Army, led by the infamous fugitive war criminal Joseph Kony, as continuing legacies of political corruption and economic instability set Uganda on a dark path to civil war. This powerful novel, which features scenes of sheer horror, does not depend on readers’ ability to decipher the overwhelming structural factors that have thrown Ricky’s Uganda into violent chaos. Rather, it is most significantly a story that stands up for the unrelenting power of the human spirit to reject evil, the nigh-impossible odds that must be conquered to escape enslavement, and the deep scars that remain for a lifetime. In 2006, Samuel, a composite character representative of the thousands of children helped by Anywar’s acclaimed Friends of Orphans charity, gives voice to this intimate process of recovery. Interleaved chapters tell Ricky’s story from 1989 to 1992. Through Ricky’s story, Samuel can find himself home again, before he was a rebel and a soldier, before he was a victim and an orphan, to the time when he “was a student and classmate. A cousin and friend. A brother and son.”

Unapologetically searing and catastrophically truthful, a reminder to readers that it demands much to meet harsh realities with impossible courage. (afterword) (Historical fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-30563-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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GUTS

THE TRUE STORIES BEHIND HATCHET AND THE BRIAN BOOKS

Paulsen recalls personal experiences that he incorporated into Hatchet (1987) and its three sequels, from savage attacks by moose and mosquitoes to watching helplessly as a heart-attack victim dies. As usual, his real adventures are every bit as vivid and hair-raising as those in his fiction, and he relates them with relish—discoursing on “The Fine Art of Wilderness Nutrition,” for instance: “Something that you would never consider eating, something completely repulsive and ugly and disgusting, something so gross it would make you vomit just looking at it, becomes absolutely delicious if you’re starving.” Specific examples follow, to prove that he knows whereof he writes. The author adds incidents from his Iditarod races, describes how he made, then learned to hunt with, bow and arrow, then closes with methods of cooking outdoors sans pots or pans. It’s a patchwork, but an entertaining one, and as likely to win him new fans as to answer questions from his old ones. (Autobiography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-32650-5

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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A remarkably insightful, profoundly moving story of fraternal interdependence and unconditional love.

VINCENT AND THEO

THE VAN GOGH BROTHERS

As she did in Charles and Emma (2009), her biography of the Darwins, Heiligman renders a nuanced portrait of the complex, devoted, and enduring relationship between the Van Gogh brothers.

Though Vincent and Theo unmistakably looked like brothers, they could not have been more opposite in habits and temperament; still, they pledged to each other as teenagers “to keep the bond between them strong and intimate.” Heiligman explains: “They will be more than brothers, more than friends. They will be companions in the search for meaning in life and meaning in art….And they will, when needed, carry each other’s parcels.” She reveals their unfailing devotion to this pledge by drawing on the hundreds of letters they exchanged in their tragically short lifetimes, quoting extensively and adeptly integrating them into the narrative. She frames the story of their relationship as a series of gallery exhibits (introducing each with a black-and-white reproduction of a representative piece) and varies her writing style to reflect Vincent’s work in different media such as sketching, drawing, and painting. Some depictions are vivid and richly textured, like Vincent’s oil paintings, while others are lean and sharp, like his sketches and drawings. Her exegesis of a lesser-known painting, The Laakmolen near The Hague (The Windmill), which she sees as essential to understanding the brothers’ relationship, features typically painstaking description and analysis. It and several others are reproduced in a full-color insert (not seen for review).

A remarkably insightful, profoundly moving story of fraternal interdependence and unconditional love. (timeline, author’s note, biography, source notes, index) (Biography. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9339-1

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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