Beautiful and awful, enraging and sad, atmospheric and page-turning: an accomplished novel.

THE UNRAVELING OF MERCY LOUIS

A modern Southern gothic with a feminist edge and the tense pacing of a thriller.

Port Sabine, Texas: an economically depressed oil refinery town on the Gulf, heavy with gossip and religious superstition. With a fatal explosion at the refinery still lingering in the residents’ collective memory, they turn their focus to Mercy Louis, the star of the high school girls basketball team. Mercy knows how good she is, and in her private way, basketball is her religion, but she must hide this from her caretaker grandmother, Evelia, a fierce evangelical. Evelia’s vision for, and of, her granddaughter is narrow; Mercy knows she has to be twice as pious as any other girl to make up for her absentee, crack-addict mother and be saved with her grandmother in the approaching rapture. In another corner of town, Illa Stark chafes in the ongoing role of nurse to her mother, a badly burned victim of the refinery explosion who has since mostly given up on life. Illa is more at peace as the manager of the girls basketball team, and she watches Mercy from afar with a hopeful tenderness. Meanwhile, the discovery of a fetus in a town dumpster has emotions in Port Sabine running hot and especially emphasizes the disempowerment of the town’s young women. “Around here, you’d think being a girl was the fucking crime,” a minor character says. It’s interesting to watch these moments of heightened awareness play up against the gothic structure. Mercy is every bit the innocent, blindly reliant on her grandmother and her basketball coach as pressures pile up on her, summer wears on and her relationships shift in distressing ways. There is a slight disconnect between Parssinen’s piercing narrative style and Mercy’s willful ignorance, but Illa’s ability to see the bigger pictures is, in story and style, a balancing grace.

Beautiful and awful, enraging and sad, atmospheric and page-turning: an accomplished novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-231909-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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