A girl’s interest in family history overlaps a coming-of-age story about her vestigial understanding of her mother after death, and her own awareness of self and place in the world. Junior high-school student Carrie Schmidt identifies strongly with the missing girls of 1967’s headlines about runaways. Carrie’s mother is dead and she has just moved in with her grandmother, Mutti, who embarrasses her with her foreign accent and ways. Carrie’s ideal is her friend Mona’s mother, a “professional” who dresses properly, smells good, and knows how to set out a table; readers will grasp the mother’s superficiality, even though Carrie, at first, does not. Mutti has terror in her past, and tells Carrie stories of the Jews in WWII Vienna, and of subsequent events in nine concentration camps; these are mined under the premise that Carrie needs stories for “dream” material and her interest in so-called lucid dreaming, a diverting backdrop that deepens the story without overwhelming it. Mutti’s gripping, terrible tales and the return of an old friend who raised Carrie’s mother when she was sent to Scotland at age nine awaken in Carrie a connection to her current family, to her ancestry, and, ultimately, to a stronger sense of self. This uncommon novel from Metzger (Ellen’s Case, 1995, etc.) steps out of the genre of historical fiction to tell a story as significant to contemporary readers as to the inhabitants of the era it evokes. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-670-87777-8

Page Count: 194

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999


More than a decade after the publication of the first books in this trilogy (Which Way Freedom, 1986; Out From This Place 1988), Hansen completes her story of Obi and Easter, two escaped slaves from South Carolina, who become separated during the Civil War. After leaving the army, Obi searches for Easter, learning that she has moved to Philadelphia to become a teacher, but intends to establish her home in the black settlement of New Canaan. While awaiting her return, Obi struggles to care for Grace, Scipio, and Araba, three orphans who fled a massacre in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, a black town destroyed by whites. Much of the story is told in letters between Obi and Easter, as Obi fights storms, disease, and bigotry while he builds a carpentry business. His love for Easter and her determination to help build New Canaan finally leads Obi to find his place in life. While the earlier novels set forth the romance more clearly, this one is just as strong in its enlivening depiction of African-American history. Hansen deftly weaves real historical events into the novel, presenting a vivid account of a budding black settlement during Reconstruction. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8027-8636-7

Page Count: 174

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999


Masquerading as a man, a young woman sets out to find her friend’s killer in New York and London at the turn of the century; disguise proves to be simultaneously liberating and imprisoning in Lewin’s big-canvas historical novel. No one is who she or he seems to be, not the gender-bending heroine Jackie who spends most of her life as Jack so she can play baseball; not her best friend, Nance, a black performer who “passes” as white, and who dies of a stab wound in the opening pages. Cleverly structured and meticulously detailed so that every piece of information neatly clicks into the jigsaw-puzzle ending, the novel runs on two tracks. One chronicles Jackie’s past history starting with her grandmother (whose incredible life both mirrors and influences her granddaughter’s); the other details her current adventures as the avenger of her best friend, along with a surprise unveiling of her father’s murderer. After a vivid trip through 19th-century America, the novel concludes in and around the music halls of London, where Jackie’s past and present converge. The derring-do climax fails to ignite, for this is a book in which the journey surpasses the destination, but overall Lewin produces a grand adventure that readers won’t soon forget. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-6225-4

Page Count: 520

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

Close Quickview