Long before the end, you appreciate why Faulkner surrounded his own child narrator with adults whose take on their journey,...

THE WAY THE FAMILY GOT AWAY

As the family car inches toward far-off Michigan, two children labor to make sense of their infant brother’s death back in Texas.

Once the baby, dead of an illness that brought high fever and indelible memories, was embalmed and placed inside a toy box in the trunk, the family packed their remaining belongings and headed for their grandfather’s house half a continent away. The situation smacks of an updated As I Lay Dying, and first-novelist Kimball pumps up the parallel by presenting the journey entirely through the alternating narratives of the family’s two surviving children, both of whom, like Vardaman Bundren in Faulkner’s novel, are obsessed with the problem of understanding death. The boy copes with the traumas of death and uprooting by tabulating the household goods the family barters to get from one forgettable little town to the next (“We traded my brother’s life away to that other family when we traded my brother’s cradle and other baby stuff away to them”). His younger sister, struggling to recast her doll family as her shattered real family, finds her dead brother wherever she looks (“You can’t stop dead people from going away to somewhere dead inside you”). The melding of the two childishly matter-of-fact voices produces some rude poetry (“America gets emptier the farther away you go up into it,” avers the brother), but the effect of such relentless literal-mindedness, at first powerful, eventually becomes grueling and finally tedious, like a long car trip with your own parents, even if your dead brother isn’t in the trunk.

Long before the end, you appreciate why Faulkner surrounded his own child narrator with adults whose take on their journey, if no more perceptive, was inarticulate in refreshingly different ways.

Pub Date: May 13, 2000

ISBN: 1-56858-155-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

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

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

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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