An intriguing but uneven tale involving the murder of a patriarch.



This debut historical novel chronicles a boy’s journey from his childhood home to an orphanage and the chain of events that leads him to change his name.

Stanley William Puchalski’s mother wakes him early one fall morning in 1920 in Southington, Ohio, to send him on the most urgent errand of his life—fetch the sheriff to investigate his father’s murder. It seems that a group of men broke into the family’s farmhouse to steal some money and shot the boy’s father, George, in his bedroom. Things haven’t always gone smoothly on the family farm. George was a harsh taskmaster for all the hands working there, even his wife, Stella, and young Stanley as well as the boy’s brothers and sister. All their hard work made George a well-off patriarch, but he didn’t share the rewards. He got drunk constantly and subjected his family to endless bursts of violent abuse. As the oldest son, Stanley wished he could step in, but he was too young to stand against Papa’s fury. That fateful evening, the boy heard a sharp crack in the middle of the night. Once the police arrive, Stella’s story starts to make less and less sense. The timing’s off, the supposed thieves sound a lot like family relatives, and there’s no trace of their car leaving the farm. And when Stella is arrested for the murder of her husband, there’s no one left to take care of Stanley and his siblings. The kids are put in the County Children’s Home, an orphanage in an old mansion, and the cruel caretakers and older bullies make the place seem like little improvement over life on the farm. In this novel based on his family’s history, Miller writes about his grandfather in a dramatic, vivid manner and a shifting third-person perspective. The author offers readers a fast-paced, cinematic tale that covers Stanley’s travails—which include changing his last name to Miller at the age of 13 and working in a Chicago steel mill—rather than a sober, minutiae-filled biography. Unfortunately, the book’s descriptive style is sometimes overwrought, which makes the prose sound overenthusiastic (“Her wavy chestnut curls flow softly in the gentle breeze, kissed by the afternoon sunlight creating shimmers of auburn highlights in her hair”).

An intriguing but uneven tale involving the murder of a patriarch.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-578-53161-8

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Bowker

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 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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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.


A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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