An accomplished meditation on character and tragedy, disquietingly drawn from real life.

Not at Peace With this Unfolding

Inspired by family lore, this first novel traces the unraveling of a 1930s Southern farming family after a fateful fire.

In 1938, a man stands near the remains of a rural home and considers the trouble wrought there. The novel then shifts to 1930 to meet farmer Yancey Riggs, serving a life sentence in a Georgia prison. In a narrative that jumps back and forth in time, readers learn that though financially strapped Riggs was cleared of arson for the fire that destroyed his home—after which he fled to California, and his wife, Eleanor, received insurance money—his former worker/tenant eventually helped convict Riggs of murder, revealing his and Riggs’ plan to perform arson. On top of that, the burned body found at the fire is that of a missing hitchhiker. The financial ruin caused by this event forces Eleanor to tell her imprisoned husband that she’s going to nursing school and she must put their two children in children’s homes until she can provide for them. This news causes a physical reaction in Riggs, who puts final plans in motion. A brief coda offers key details about what actually happened during the night that changed Riggs’ life. As Aten notes at the end of her novel, she’s drawn on family history for her fiction debut as she crafts a stylistically impressive imagining of a pivotal event in her family’s history. Given its rather musing structure, the novel can at times be repetitive—characters share what happened, but accounts of trial testimony cover the same facts—and sketchy; why, for example, is Riggs both despairing and hungry for spiritual connection? His relationships with Eleanor and the former worker remain rather shadowy, too. While readers may wish for a deeper understanding of the somewhat true story, its unsettling nature certainly leaves an impression.

An accomplished meditation on character and tragedy, disquietingly drawn from real life.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2013

ISBN: 978-1612961743

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2013

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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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