Disreputable lives raised to the level of Literature.

THE PARTS

If John Dos Passos were writing today, had been influenced by Irvine Welsh, and had set Manhattan Transfer in Dublin, this might have been the result.

In a grand house outside Dublin lives Fidelma (“Delly”) Roche, widow of pharmaceutical tycoon Daniel Gilmore, who died in mysterious circumstances in a helicopter crash 20 years ago along with Delly’s lover, Frank Cullen, Gilmore’s corporate lieutenant. Now, aging Delly is dying of colon cancer (or is she only being drugged to keep her from finding out what’s happening on her estate?) and is being cared for by Kitty Flood, an obese, somewhat successful novelist and a lesbian, and Roche and Gilmore’s adopted son, Dr. George Addison-Blake, an American left on the doorstep of his namesake hospital as an infant suffering from an incurable disease that Daniel Gilmore’s research later cured. Meanwhile, in town, Joe Kavanagh, a radio talk show host whose wife has left him, taking their daughter, decides to upgrade his show and so instructs his young, gay, horny producer to find more offbeat guests. The sixth member of the ensemble here is the “rent boy” Kevin, whose brief internal monologues punctuate descriptions of the others’ actions and memories, including pornography, drug sales, murder, infidelity, insanity, ménages à trois, and futile attempts at being good neighbors. All are brought together when Barry invites Kevin to appear on Joe’s show, George kidnaps Kevin for his experiments in Gilmore’s underground lair, and Kitty discovers the lair and inadvertently frees Kevin, whereupon Delly finds him wandering about the house and calls the cops. Meanwhile, Barry and Joe have enlisted Kevin’s brother, a tough on the fringes of organized crime, who knows George through his drug and pornography dealing, to help find Kevin. Could all of this have been avoided if Daniel Gilmore had actually invented the memory-erasure drug he was said to be working on when he died? And did he invent it?

Disreputable lives raised to the level of Literature.

Pub Date: June 16, 2004

ISBN: 0-312-32769-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2004

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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A nervy modern-day rebellion tale that isn’t afraid to get dark or find humor in the darkness.

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MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION

A young New York woman figures there’s nothing wrong with existence that a fistful of prescriptions and months of napping wouldn’t fix.

Moshfegh’s prickly fourth book (Homesick for Another World, 2017, etc.) is narrated by an unnamed woman who’s decided to spend a year “hibernating.” She has a few conventional grief issues. (Her parents are both dead, and they’re much on her mind.) And if she’s not mentally ill, she’s certainly severely maladjusted socially. (She quits her job at an art gallery in obnoxious, scatological fashion.) But Moshfegh isn’t interested in grief or mental illness per se. Instead, she means to explore whether there are paths to living that don’t involve traditional (and wearying) habits of consumption, production, and relationships. To highlight that point, most of the people in the narrator's life are offbeat or provisional figures: Reva, her well-meaning but shallow former classmate; Trevor, a boyfriend who only pursues her when he’s on the rebound; and Dr. Tuttle, a wildly incompetent doctor who freely gives random pill samples and presses one drug, Infermiterol, that produces three-day blackouts. None of which is the stuff of comedy. But Moshfegh has a keen sense of everyday absurdities, a deadpan delivery, and such a well-honed sense of irony that the narrator’s predicament never feels tragic; this may be the finest existential novel not written by a French author. (Recovering from one blackout, the narrator thinks, “What had I done? Spent a spa day then gone out clubbing?...Had Reva convinced me to go ‘enjoy myself’ or something just as idiotic?”) Checking out of society the way the narrator does isn’t advisable, but there’s still a peculiar kind of uplift to the story in how it urges second-guessing the nature of our attachments while revealing how hard it is to break them.

A nervy modern-day rebellion tale that isn’t afraid to get dark or find humor in the darkness.

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52211-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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