Some startling scenes and enchanting writing, but Flook's depiction of feeble psyches and unending despair ultimately...


As in Flook's first novel (Family Night, 1993), a dark, strong start lapses into weary complacency as the characters' weaknesses prove insurmountable and addictions to drugs, sex, and loss become their guiding lights.

After Willis gets dishonorably discharged from the Navy for pilfering from a supply warehouse, he goes to his stepmother's home in Newport, R.I. While he claims to be returning to care for Rennie, who took him in after his father died when he was 13, she seems more capable of dealing with her fast-approaching death from cancer than Willis, whose resolve to keep up a good front is further eroded by the constant pain in his arm from a carelessly self-inflicted fracture. Rennie, who seems to need his dependency more than his strength, invites Willis to sample her supply of morphine, and he becomes immediately addicted. Enter a neighbor named Holly, transfixed by the goings-on across the street. All three characters battle to escape their demons. Rennie suffers under the mocking title ``Kiss of Death,'' awarded to any woman who's had two husbands die at sea (she even had a third, Willis's father, expire unexpectedly from a heart attack), and fights to prevent her biological son from putting her in a rest home and taking away her seaside house. Willis struggles to come to terms with his mother's death, a freak accident provoked by his father's violence, and searches for anything that will fill his emptiness, turning to meaningless sex and dangerous, shady business deals. Holly tries to start over after her husband leaves her to buy Carvel Ice Cream franchises with his new, rich lover. The three misfits become intimate, and as each works to keep the others afloat, they discover deeper failings and hidden strengths.

Some startling scenes and enchanting writing, but Flook's depiction of feeble psyches and unending despair ultimately anesthetizes the reader.

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 1995

ISBN: 0-679-43183-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1994

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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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