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DESPERATION ROAD

Smith writes shapely prose and sharp dialogue and everywhere displays an acute sense of the moments and pain that can define...

Two hard-luck cases collide in this smooth-flowing novel of the Deep South, where a Mississippi town harbors a long-brewing hunger for vengeance and a slim chance of redemption.

Maben and Russell are heading to McComb from different directions, geographically and otherwise. She has been on the road for too many years after a terrible car accident and has tried almost everything to make a life somewhere for herself and her young daughter. He has been serving 11 years in prison for a drunken driving incident that killed a young man. But fate takes Maben on yet another nasty detour via a deputy sheriff who rapes her and then calls up two friends to join the party. Maben grabs his gun and ends that soiree before it gets going. Russell steps off a bus and into the fists and boots of the dead young man’s two brothers. Russell’s stolid father and a Mexican woman he has taken in offer stability when it’s most needed. Another deputy sheriff, who played high school football with Russell, faces the awkward task of finding out why his old friend turned up at the scene of Maben’s highly motivated gunplay shortly after investigators arrived. Smith (Rivers, 2013, etc.) gives Maben a gritty strength that may not be enough in her current plight. Russell, a moody, meditative loner who knows that “rough lives got rougher,” has his hands full with the murderous brothers and seeking out the woman he lost while in prison, but he’s inclined to help where he can. The book’s brooding atmosphere lights up often with strong scenes of high tension.

Smith writes shapely prose and sharp dialogue and everywhere displays an acute sense of the moments and pain that can define lives in a small town.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-35303-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Lee Boudreaux/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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HOUSE OF LEAVES

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

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OF MICE AND MEN

Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

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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