Lowry’s novel portrays the rich life and culture of a hotshot crew but struggles to make that world’s inhabitants equally...

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WILDFIRE

After failing out of college in her final semester, Julie joins a forest firefighting crew in this fast-paced novel.

Lowry (The Earthquake Machine, 2011) paints a vivid portrait of life as a hotshot, a firefighter specially trained in wildfire suppression. The Pike Inter-Agency Hotshot Crew must react quickly when a burning tree falls in the wrong direction or a walkie-talkie runs out of batteries. In such scenes of true-to-life suspense and well-rendered detail, it's easy to forget this is a novel and not a work of nonfiction. Indeed, the writing is strongest where it reveals the extreme physical endurance of and deep camaraderie that forms in a hotshot crew. Julie’s personal story, by comparison, is far less convincing. In the prologue, Julie explains her obsession with fire: “After my parents died I started to set things on fire.” When she's forced to quit her pyromania, Julie starts binging and purging as a coping mechanism. After joining the Pike crew, Julie is still sneaking out after dinners to throw up. Despite the depth of her psychological struggles, her compulsions fade away without ever being discovered, confronted or treated directly. Julie's social situation feels similarly thin. As the only woman on the crew, she fights predictable sexism to gain acceptance from her team. One particularly closed-minded hotshot, Tan, only warms toward Julie after she saves his life. Julie's story is rife with melodrama and overused tropes: She falls for a crew member, reconciles with her controlling grandmother and beats the boys at their own game multiple times. The seams show around the obvious plot devices. When Bliss appears in their camp, Julie feels threatened by the presence of another woman; after the two become friends, Bliss has served her purpose and is never heard from again. Characters are fairly flat, and when the story reaches its tragic ending, the reader knows it's coming and remains unmoved.

Lowry’s novel portrays the rich life and culture of a hotshot crew but struggles to make that world’s inhabitants equally real.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-62914-497-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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