An often striking account of religious opportunism.

Prophet of Loss

In this drama, a charismatic cult leader exploits a downtrodden family.

Celia Waters’ parents take a calculated risk to buy a new house in a small town in South Carolina, using insurance money that they received after Celia’s grandmother’s death to move out of the Blue Wave Mobile Home Community. But then Celia’s father suffers a serious back injury and loses his job delivering newspapers. Her mother is put out of work, too, when the dentist who employs her goes bankrupt. Celia’s dad abuses alcohol and OxyContin, and he grows verbally abusive, hopeless, and uncharacteristically lazy. His spirits improve after he attends a service at the Living Faith Church, and he’s enthralled with one of its ministers—the hypnotic Barrett Higgins, who eventually breaks from the church and starts his own. He then invites Celia’s family to live in his farmhouse rent-free. They become part of a fledgling religious community that becomes increasingly cultish and bizarre. One day, Higgins announces that he’s the second coming of Jesus Christ—to the joy of his new disciples—and takes Celia’s mother to be his new bride. They all start referring to him as “The Prophet.” Celia is singled out to be Higgins’ “own personal Gabriel.” But then she starts to question his divinity—and his motives. Author Weible (Hello from Out Here, 2010, etc.) deftly unpacks the cunning charm of the cult leader in this unsettling novel, showing how Higgins expertly preys on the vulnerabilities of his quarry: “Celia had wanted Barrett, to possess or be possessed by him, so badly because he was the only thing there was to want. That was his greatest trick.” That said, Celia’s father’s descent into helplessness from an initial place of strength seems too precipitous to be plausible. Aside from this narrative flaw, though, it’s a powerful story, and one that effectively illustrates the human capacity for gullibility.

An often striking account of religious opportunism.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-76126-7

Page Count: 278

Publisher: East West 792

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 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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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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