A novel tough talking, unlovely, and screaming for attention.

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THE BITCH POSSE

A manic first novel follows a desperate clutch of Illinois high-school girls whose friendship makes up for the depressing facts of their middle-class lives.

In alternating voices, O’Connor presents three young women whose ill-fated attempts to take some control over their troubled senior year continue to have profound repercussions 15 years later. At Holland High in 1988, Cherry uses the example of her coke-snorting single mother to get as wasted as possible and skip school; former homecoming queen Amy harbors deep resentment of her parents for favoring her retarded older sister, Callie, and keeping her institutionalized; and Rennie, an honor student, chooses her route to ruin by losing her virginity to her lecherous drama teacher. All of them find release in cutting themselves with knives. In their friendship with each other, called the Bitch Posse, they swear loyalty forever and promise “to put no friends or lovers before one another,” which, in the end, proves unsustainable. The treachery of men does intrude, in the form of Cherry’s abusive boyfriend and Rennie’s manipulative married lover, Mr. Schafer. To play as raunchy as the boys seems to be what the three are after (“You have to hurt if you want to feel anything at all”), but “Let’s go get wasted” is the sad refrain. Years later, Cherry is stuck in a mental institution, Amy suffers a miscarriage and a soured marriage in Upper Michigan, while Rennie, now a published novelist and California high-school teacher, finds herself addicted to seducing the young men in her charge. As a newcomer, O’Connor makes an aggressive stance here against so-called chick-lit—“and all forms of lying,” she notes. The result is more in-your-face, reality women’s fiction, but still formulaic in its way, with plenty of clitoral sex, women’s friendships that outweigh their relationships with men, bad choices and self-destructive behavior. The writing, in both cases, remains a shameful afterthought.

A novel tough talking, unlovely, and screaming for attention.

Pub Date: May 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-312-33392-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2005

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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