An assured introduction. Readers will want to hear more from Griffin, though perhaps without sputtering motors and whirring...


Deliberately paced, thoughtful story of men in love over many years against considerable odds.

Gay life in the South doesn't always take place in a colonial row house in Savannah or a beachfront condo in Myrtle Beach. In Griffin’s debut novel, it's lived out in the shadows in a run-down North Carolina mill town, where Wendell Wilson, a taxidermist, has lived a long and eventful life with Frank Clifton, a World War II veteran who melted Wendell’s heart the minute they met. Or melted the world, anyway, for with Frank’s smile, “the branches shuddered off their casts of ice, and the power lines broke free of their insulation, snapped taut and scattered it over the street in pieces that still cupped the hollow channel where the wire had run.” That’s some powerful allure. The title of Griffin’s novel is both noun and verb, for while Wendell works magic with the bodies of unfortunate animals, the men keep their relationship secret, lest they be hounded out of town. But now Frank is 83, has had a mild stroke, and has affairs to get in order. As Frank grapples with a faltering mind and body and difficult memories of war—crushing the head of an enemy soldier with a rock “ain’t the worst I did,” he grumbles—Wendell finds himself in the unwished-for role of caretaker. Griffin’s story sometimes feels derivative, with dollops of Annie Proulx here and lashings of Allan Gurganus there, with some Jane Smiley and perhaps Bobbie Ann Mason thrown in for good measure. But it also feels genuine, recounting the love of two very different people made to live in fear but who endure with considerable dignity, allowing for the occasional mishap. On that note, animal lovers will shudder at one terrible episode, late in the book, involving a dog and a lawn mower. Suffice it to say, it’s not for the squeamish.

An assured introduction. Readers will want to hear more from Griffin, though perhaps without sputtering motors and whirring blades.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63286-338-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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