Yet these are quibbles in a novel so rich. First-timer Durkee writes with a southern accent that doesn’t smother a unique...

RIDES OF THE MIDWAY

A tremendously energetic first novel about the childhood, adolescence, and emerging manhood of a troubled Mississippi boy in the decade after Vietnam.

Whether the ghosts are real or in his head, small-town Noel Weatherspoon is haunted, first by his father, declared MIA in Vietnam when Noel was in first grade, then by the Little League catcher who slipped into a coma after ten-year-old Noel slammed into him at home plate. Remorseful yet self-important, Noel lives according to his permanent sense of guilt. A natural outsider, he’s drawn into guilt-affirming behavior with other outsiders—beginning with his only Jewish classmate, then the minister’s rebellious daughter, and finally a fired college professor. The first third of the story is chock-full of events and characters, too many to cite here, as Durkee combines the haunting lyricism of his prologue, told from the comatose catcher’s point of view, with blatantly crude comedy that will have readers laughing out loud despite themselves (think watermelon and horny boys). With more plot turns than you’ll find in a year of daytime soaps, Durkee introduces a slew of people who are colorful yet never caricatures, from the single mother of Noel’s best friend who gets stoned with the boys, unaware that Noel has a naked snapshot of her, to Noel’s stepfather, whose resemblance to Billy Graham underscores his tragicomic relationship with Noel. Perhaps inevitably, the author does lose some steam as he goes along. Although Noel’s college experience has its charms, particularly his twisted, unconsummated affair with a married and fired professor, the moral crisis that he finally confronts seems forced, the author’s fingerprints seen too visibly all over the denouement.

Yet these are quibbles in a novel so rich. First-timer Durkee writes with a southern accent that doesn’t smother a unique voice, and his roller-coaster ride of a story leaves a reader breathless and waiting for more.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-393-04971-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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