A moving adventure story about the volatility of the father-son bond.

VASTATION

In Birdseye’s oddly compelling fiction debut, a father-son hiking trip goes violently wrong.

Josh Donaldson is convinced—browbeaten, really—by his charismatic, literate, slightly unbalanced father to go for a long, running hike in Oregon’s wild and remote Cedar Ridge. Dad has always been an outsize figure in Donaldson’s life, writing long unpublished novels and constantly challenging his family to unconventional thinking. His force of personality overcomes Donaldson’s reservations about hiking and running in a wilderness area unknown to both of them. Once they reach their starting point, these reservations are only deepened by warnings from locals, who point out both the dangers of the terrain—“The woods are always dangerous. Damn foolish city folk are always comin’ up here and gettin’ lost”—and the presence in the woods of a major drug runner known as the Columbian. But Dad gets his way, and soon the two of them are encountering the beauties of the Oregon backcountry, beautifully described by Birdseye. Displaying virtually no hiking or camping skills, Dad instead waxes poetic at every turn, reciting Keats upon seeing a swollen mountain stream, which prompts a doubtful Donaldson to reflect that the water seemed “too real, and far too perilous to be poetic, except perhaps in a poem depicting death by means of forces beyond reason.” Inevitably, the two encounter the Columbian’s men, and violence erupts; Birdseye’s formerly ruminative narrative pace sharpens considerably once father and son confront the Columbian himself, who turns out to be oddly similar to Dad in both his wide reading and his penchant for crackpot philosophizing. “The fate of mankind ultimately doomed to perish from the cold is of no consequence,” the Columbian says. “Taken to heart it is a tragedy of unendurable proportions.” Dad is wounded, and Donaldson is certain he’s going to die, but even in these fairly standard hikers-in-peril sections, Birdseye raises his plot above the commonplace with detailed and quite touching depiction of Dad’s loss of confidence in his ebullient view of life—and of Donaldson’s loss of confidence in Dad.

A moving adventure story about the volatility of the father-son bond.

Pub Date: May 23, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4771-0789-8

Page Count: 314

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

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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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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