Definitely smart, fairly entertaining, but not likely to expand the author’s audience.

READ REVIEW

STILL HERE

An exploration of life, death, and social media from the author of The Scent of Pine (2014) and Memoirs of a Muse (2006).

Sergey, Vica, Vadik, and Regina are all Russian émigrés living in New York, and all are dissatisfied with the people they’ve become. Sergey keeps losing his job as a financial analyst. Vica put medical school on hold so that Sergey could start his—now permanently stalled—career. Vadik is a successful computer programmer, but his romantic life peaked on his first day in Manhattan. And Regina gave up her work as a literary translator when she married an American tech entrepreneur; now she spends her days binge-watching vintage sitcoms in her Tribeca apartment. For each of them, technology plays a role in the disconnect between the selves they imagine and the selves they actually achieve. This is especially true of Sergey, who’s convinced that Virtual Grave, his idea for an app that will allow the dead to live on via Twitter and Facebook, is going to rescue him from his disastrous career in finance. Vapnyar is a shrewd writer, and her characters are sharp observers. As she shifts from one point of view to the next, each member of this quartet makes up—in some degree—for the blind spots of the others. But these characters often get lost in their own back stories, which means that pages and pages pass in which the narrative stands still. Then the story leaps ahead between chapters; much of the major action happens offstage. These stylistic choices make some sense. The distance between Moscow and New York doesn’t sever the past from the present, and a carefully constructed social media presence can obscure as much as it reveals. Nevertheless, some readers may be frustrated by the uneven pacing, and the happy ending for all feels forced.

Definitely smart, fairly entertaining, but not likely to expand the author’s audience.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-90552-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

Did you like this book?

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2017

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

more