A fine study in the psychology of yearning, elegantly told.



A closely observed saga of scientific discovery—but with stolen kisses, madness and plenty of other complications.

Percival Lowell, one of the many real-life characters in Byers’s (Long for This World, 2003, etc.) novel, is a man obsessed by many things: Martian canals, alien species, undiscovered planets lurking at the edges of the solar system. But, as Byers slyly observes, he “was not the only wild-eyed schemer that Arizona ever attracted; indeed, now in the summer of 1928, it can seem as though something in the desert air is drawing them by the carload.” Some are wealthy, including chemical-fortune heir Felix DuPrie, an amateur paleontologist who helps revise the fossil record—and names a dinosaur species after a woman inconveniently married to someone else. That someone else, meanwhile, names a comet after a woman inconveniently married to yet someone else. While Byers’s tale is generally family-rated, there is plenty of unrequited and rather desperate love to go around. Farm boy Clyde Tombaugh wanders into the pulsing scientific scene as if a less privileged Nick Carraway among the West Egg set and finds himself vying with the best minds Harvard can produce to find the planet Lowell so desperately seeks. Everyone in Byers’s pages is searching for something, whether far away or underneath the dirt—and no one, it seems, is quite content with what he or she has, except, perhaps, for DuPrie’s hardworking crew of Italian immigrants. Much is at stake, and as Byers’s players peer into the reaches of the universe, hearts break and minds snap. This would all be high-order romance were Byers not such a careful writer and, as it happens, so faithful a historian, and he turns in some lovely lines, among them this one: “The mind travels out into the landscape and, finding nothing, returns with the sense that something really is in residence there: something huge, silent, eternal.” Just so.

A fine study in the psychology of yearning, elegantly told.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9218-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2010

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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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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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Steinbeck refuses to allow himself to be pigeonholed. This is as completely different from Tortilla Flat and In Dubious Battle as they are from each other. Only in his complete understanding of the proletarian mentality does he sustain a connecting link though this is assuredly not a "proletarian novel". It is oddly absorbing this picture of the strange friendship between the strong man and the giant with the mind of a not-quite-bright child. Driven from job to job by the failure of the giant child to fit into the social pattern, they finally find in a ranch what they feel their chance to achieve a homely dream they have built. But once again, society defeats them. There's a simplicity, a directness, a poignancy in the story that gives it a singular power, difficult to define. Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1936

ISBN: 0140177396

Page Count: 83

Publisher: Covici, Friede

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1936

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