BEING WITH HENRY

Born from the short story `The Kindness of Strangers` in her collection Traveling on into the Light and Other Stories (1994) Brooks builds a delicately tuned novel in three parts that pays homage to Capote in its treatment of characters, but stands strongly on its own. Good-looking Laker is an introspective teenager who's grown up with his mostly-single mom Audrey. Her new marriage and pregnancy drives a wedge into their close relationship, and Laker starts to stay away from home, drinking, punishing himself and his mom, until in a rage he physically attacks his stepfather, and then catches a bus out of town. Act two: enter Henry, an octogenarian still grieving for his wife, who takes in Laker mostly to spite his own daughter. Laker does some work for Henry in exchange for room and board, but by the time the two can both admit they're using each other, they've become attached. In the final section, Henry and Laker take a trip together that returns each to his own past, and is intended to set them each on his own way. Laker's voice is moody, melancholy, and intelligent. He reads plays voraciously—especially, of course, A Streetcar Named Desire, and his inner landscape is portrayed metaphorically in the outer one that Brooks details. She seems to employ an entirely different vocabulary than the rest of us, as her completely ordinary turns of phrase swell with the extraordinary. She has a keen eye for people, as Capote did, and every minor character comes alive instantly and fully. Laker's story is at once pedestrian and miraculous. Brooks deals with universal adolescent themes of home, self, and romance with a fresh hand, creating a memorable story that begs repeating. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7894-2588-2

Page Count: 215

Publisher: DK Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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WHAT THE MOON SAW

When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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