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After a charming first chapter that imagines highly individual “crossings” to the other side, a novelistic virus called “The...

What if those enjoying the afterlife require for their continuing existence being remembered by Earthlings?

And then a pandemic virus called “The Blinks” kills off everyone but an isolated researcher in Antarctica who is forced by an accident to make two heroic treks to save herself—and her dear departed, though she doesn’t know that. In alternating chapters, Brockmeier (Things That Fall from the Sky, 2002, etc.) describes life after death as a retro city where people don’t change and tells the harrowing tale of plucky, 30-something Laura Byrd. Since the afterlife, as depicted here, is never believable (the denizens show little stress about their temporary status), the stakes of Laura’s sledding aren’t what Brockmeier hopes. Set in a future riven by planetary wars, global heating and the extinction of other mammals, the book wants to be an allegory of saving interdependence, what Emerson called “each and all,” but not even the story’s halves mesh. The highly detailed polar chapters seem composed for their own cinematic sake. And the newly united dead—Laura’s parents, an old lover, an executive she worked for, a religious fanatic, people casually known—are too briefly sketched and allowed too little freedom to elicit much engagement. In this speculative fiction, perhaps the most interesting element to wonder about is how Brockmeier will get away with blaming Coca-Cola for causing the pandemic.

After a charming first chapter that imagines highly individual “crossings” to the other side, a novelistic virus called “The Flicks” debilitates the rest.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-375-42369-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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