A wonderfully intriguing examination of what makes, and might break, a family.

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BLIND SIGHT

Family, fame and a perceptive youngster's idea that "We are designed for belief" all collide in this debut novel.

Luke Prescott is a precocious soon-to-be high-school senior living in Delaware with this mother and grandmother. He knows about things like "neurotransmitter protein receptors" and cross-country running, but he doesn't know his father. Sara, his mother, is a picture-perfect New Age woman. Dressing up her life with elements of Buddhism and Eastern thought, she co-owns a wellness center and teaches yoga. Nana, Sara's mother and the widow of a Christian missionary killed by South American jungle tribesmen, provides both acceptance and stability for the family. That includes Luke's two sisters, Aurora and Pearl, in college in New York as the story unfolds. Nana's family traces its lineage to the 1600s through a series of women who each had three daughters, only one of whom had children, all of whom were daughters. Luke says, "I don't think it means anything," but it has informed his introspective, intuitive and reflective personality. Into this mix comes Mark Franco, Luke's biological father, the popular star of a highly rated TV series. Mark asks to meet Luke, offspring of a one-night romance, and with Sara's agreement, Mark flies Luke to Hollywood to spend the summer. Luke sees the money-fame-glamour side of life, Sara grows jealous and the particles that make up this nuclear family become rearranged. The novel resonates with authenticity, both with its description of the world of women from which Luke emerges and the world of easy celebrity in which he is tempered. Even many of Howrey's minor characters—Luke's sisters, for example—shine, and the narrative, related in alternate segments from Luke's point of view and in the third person, will draw the reader in.

A wonderfully intriguing examination of what makes, and might break, a family.

Pub Date: March 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-37916-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2010

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

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LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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