A wholly involving story with Faulkner-ian characters in a fully realized setting.

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Elysian Fields

A dysfunctional family reflects the decay of New Orleans in debut author LaFlaur’s tale of brotherly love and menace.

Much like the lush, crumbling city in which it lives, the Weems family exists on the edge of decrepitude. Gasper, the deceased father whose odd demise haunts the ramshackle family home, was a cheerful but ineffectual man, and his ailing wife, Melba, and his elder son, Simpson, share his weak nature. If Gasper had any strength, it funneled into the younger son, Bartholomew, who holds his family hostage with his gargantuan body, constant consumption and zealous antics. He is the elephant in the room, and although his mother believes that he needs psychiatric help—and a job to augment her pitiful pension—she holds no sway over him. Neither does Simpson, his 36-year-old brother; he works a dead-end job in a copy shop by day and frequents a brothel by night—until his favorite nymphet, the only person he let through his emotional barriers, vanishes. Now all Simpson has left is his persistent dream of moving to San Francisco and becoming a poet, but his family ties bind him to his mother’s frailties and his brother’s psychotic tantrums. As Simpson wanders the “shadows of the city’s infrastructure” in the Gentilly section of town, he dreams of something else: fratricide. On those walks, LaFlaur’s descriptive talent shines. Fertile imagery drips like Spanish moss: the old buildings collapsing, “as though the humidity-sodden bricks were returning to mud,” while “cloud stacks glowed like the battlements of heaven.” Simpson’s mental landscape is equally vivid, drawn with such empathy and depth that readers will forgive his perpetual indecision and may even root for him to carry out the removal of his near-deranged brother.

A wholly involving story with Faulkner-ian characters in a fully realized setting.

Pub Date: March 6, 2013

ISBN: 9780615729862

Page Count: 412

Publisher: Mid-City Books

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2013

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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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