A prolonged exercise in navel-gazing, with a powerful ending that may be redemptive in the eyes of readers who stick around.


Author and poet Kasischke (If a Stranger Approaches You, 2013, etc.) chronicles the ramblings of a woman snowed in with her adopted daughter on Christmas Day.

Holly and her husband, Eric, adopted beautiful Tatiana from a cold, impersonal Russian orphanage when she was a toddler. The little girl with the blue-tinged skin, glossy black hair, and huge, dark eyes adjusted quickly to the love and attention showered upon her by her new family, but when they all oversleep on Christmas morning, the day grows exceptionally strange. Eric rushes out in a blizzard to fetch his elderly parents from the airport, while Holly and Tatty—as they call their daughter—try to put dinner on the table for their guests, which include Eric’s brothers and their wives and some family friends. But something is different about this day: Holly awakens to the idea that something followed them home from Russia, and she keeps trying to hold on to that idea in order to write it down. And Tatty, despite having overslept, keeps taking long naps. She also makes strange appearances in which both her clothes and personality change. Then there’s Holly’s phone, which rings often but conceals the identity of the caller and transmits odd messages. Holly, the sole narrator of the story, is a poet with writer’s block, but in Kasischke’s hands, she becomes a buzzing mosquito, obsessing over every decision, no matter how small and inconsequential. The story’s most fascinating moments occur when the author decamps to Siberia in the days before and during Tatty’s adoption. The rich and heartbreaking details surrounding the orphanage and the adoption process provide interesting insight into both Holly and Tatty. But the author’s favored technique of taking random thoughts and dwelling on them for pages on end makes for some thin and often frustrating prose.

A prolonged exercise in navel-gazing, with a powerful ending that may be redemptive in the eyes of readers who stick around.

Pub Date: March 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-228439-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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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

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This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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