THE MISCONCEIVER

A pleasantly unpolemical, if plodding, novel about a 21st-century abortionist who's haunted by the memory of her political-activist sister. It's the year 2026, and the world is a Gingrichian vision of high-tech gadgetry and conservative social values. Abortion is illegal and birth control scarce—as much from fear of declining birth rates among the white middle class as from Christian moral precepts. In this repressive but nominally democratic America, Phoebe has a day job as a computer debugger; secretly, she performs ``misconceptions,'' as illicit abortions are called. No abortion- rights crusader, Phoebe refers to her work as ``killing babies'' and continues mainly to carry on the legacy of her spirited older sister, Marie, a ``misconceiver'' who died in jail. Phoebe's brother and mother are also dead, and her father suffers from advanced Alzheimer's, so when the suicide of a 12-year-old incest victim throws her into a moral crisis, she turns to her widowed sister-in-law, Roxanne, for a place to lie low for a while. But while visiting Roxanne in California, Phoebe is moved by the plight of Roxanne's teenage daughter, Christel, who's facing an unwanted pregnancy. With the help of Roxanne's fiancÇ Arthur, a doctor, Phoebe performs an abortion on her niece—and Phoebe and Arthur begin an affair. Arriving back home in Utica, Phoebe is immediately arrested and must figure out who has betrayed her. Was it Arthur, one of the friends or colleagues in whom she's confided, or perhaps a traitor in the underground community of abortion providers? Then a fellow prisoner helps her escape, and Phoebe has to consider how far she wants to go in service of Marie's cause. Ferriss (Against Gravity, 1996, etc.) worthily acknowledges the complexities of the abortion debate, and her dystopia, if not wildly original, is thoroughly imagined—yet ultimately the tale remains constrained by its narrow focus and muddled plot.

Pub Date: July 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-684-80092-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997

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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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