A would-be writer finds cancer instead of a publisher in New York; she goes back to Alabama to die, but storywriter and anthologist Ebersole (Mondo Barbie, 1993, etc.) keeps her character alive long enough to inject a few poignant anecdotes into this otherwise maudlin first novel. Embodying the modern belief that only in many voices can one find truth, dying Cordelia takes shape through her conscious, her unconscious, and her self-specific omniscient narrator (``Without Cordelia, I cease to be omniscient''), making a desperate effort to tell all she knows. As the seventh (and last) of the name Cordelia in her family to die in the small town of Equality, she is part of a rich matrilineal heritage, the possessor of her predecessors' memories as well as of her own. But she is also the end of her line. Not inappropriately, most of her recollections concern other deaths: the brave, proud black woman Cora Johnson, visited on her deathbed by the now-famous writer Jane, whom Cora rescued from her white-trash family and inspired to become a storyteller; Adam, a bright young boy who learns about fireworks from the town's only Chinaman, then blows himself up within a few days of his mother's giving him his first chemistry set; bored young Mary Elizabeth, who drags a sister and her friend to see the local psychic: The old woman refuses to tell Mary Elizabeth about her future, sensing that the young woman will soon die. Intermixed with these tales of woe are Cordelia's brief encounters with the living: her visiting nurse, dispensing painkillers and geography quizzes; old Doc Campbell, himself dying of cancer; and her ex-lover from New York, who followed her home against her wishes only to sit helplessly by as she fades away. Engaging character sketches in the time-honored tradition of southern gothic, although the more contemporary conceit that binds them here is loose and ineffectual.

Pub Date: March 12, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-15106-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1997

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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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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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