Despite featuring an outsider who’s a bit too removed, this book delivers a fast-paced, energetic tale resonating with...


In this novel, a new international student at a commuter college in Ohio ignites questions of racism, nationalism, and history for a small town.

Fresh from the Paris suburbs, Azza Amari arrives at Northwestern Ohio State College wearing a hijab and holding a bag containing $97,872. “It is my out-of-state tuition, yes?” she responds to the registrar’s shock. The Tunisian-born refugee has already bought into a vision of the classic American college experience. But instead of offering a dorm, programs, and mixers, the small commuter college in Fremont struggles to accommodate her—eventually renting a cheap motel room and having the assistant registrar’s teenage son, Kip Beckelhymer, drive her around in his blue hatchback. Azza becomes intrigued by Kip’s love of history, in particular his obsession with a missing artifact from the local museum: a 19th-century plaster of Paris European pear. Azza agrees to help him and his friend Ryan Langham on their treasure hunts if the boys teach her how to drive. As the unlikely friendship develops, Azza learns more about Kip’s failed romance while the boys have their eyes opened to Islam and the world outside Fremont. Meanwhile, others in the town begin to close ranks, and dangerous clouds of racism and nationalism settle over the campus. Womack (Playing the Angel, 2013) has created a fun, fish-out-of-water tale with heavy implications about today’s world. He has carefully drawn, realistic small-town figures—thanks to sharp dialogue from Kip and Ry especially—to show how quickly open minds can close, building to an emotional and incensing conclusion. Azza’s overly polite, quizzical nature provides plenty of bright, comedic moments, but her characterization overall is perplexing. Her utter naiveté about bank accounts and universities seems to reinforce stereotypes rather than undo them. It would make more sense for Azza to be from a tiny, isolated village rather than the mean streets of a global, Western city—and the whole story would greatly benefit from its central figure being worldlier.

Despite featuring an outsider who’s a bit too removed, this book delivers a fast-paced, energetic tale resonating with today’s most troubling and important issues.

Pub Date: May 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68433-264-9

Page Count: 254

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2019

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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