A misstep in Cullin’s unpredictable, adventurous and, alas, frustratingly uneven oeuvre.

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THE POST-WAR DREAM

Yet another change of pace for the versatile Texas-born author, now living in Japan.

Cullin’s fiction has ranged widely, and results have been mixed, but he seemed to have found his footing in A Slight Trick of the Mind (2005), a dazzling fictional portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in old age. Here, Cullin examines a long, happy marriage imperiled by illness and by the resurgent shadows of suppressed memories. When Korean War veteran Hollis Adams learns that his wife Debra has ovarian cancer, he initially hesitates to fulfill her request that he confirm their closeness by writing his life story. It’s partly because the Arizona retiree is troubled by dreams filled with visions of wounded, wasted creatures and blighted landscapes, harsh reminders of his distinctly unheroic combat experiences almost half a century ago. The emerging memories cluster around the brash, macho figure of Bill McCreedy, the Randall P. McMurphy figure of the battalion in which he and Hollis served, and a then-unsuspected link to Hollis’s future. The author works hard to juxtapose Hollis’s reluctant memories of an “intensely surreal two weeks at war,” which ended when he was wounded but later led to his stateside visit to abrasive, valiant McCreedy’s hometown and then a chance meeting that shaped the years that followed. This surprisingly tepid novel has two partly redeeming elements: several affecting scenes in which Hollis and Debra labor to believe that they really do deserve to live happily, despite the mocking presence of survivor’s guilt; and Cullin’s subtle examination of the complex emotional condition identified by his fine title, which refers to both Hollis’s literally troubled sleep and to returning servicemen’s hopeful visions of lasting security and prosperity. Yet the story never really moves beyond its beginnings, prompting a suspicion that the author couldn’t decide what to make of its narrative and thematic possibilities.

A misstep in Cullin’s unpredictable, adventurous and, alas, frustratingly uneven oeuvre.

Pub Date: March 18, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-385-51329-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

ALMOST JUST FRIENDS

Piper Manning is determined to sell her family’s property so she can leave her hometown behind, but when her siblings come back with life-changing secrets and her sexy neighbor begins to feel like “The One,” she might have to redo her to-do list.

As children, Piper and her younger siblings, Gavin and Winnie, were sent to live with their grandparents in Wildstone, California, from the Congo after one of Gavin’s friends was killed. Their parents were supposed to meet them later but never made it. Piper wound up being more of a parent than her grandparents, though: “In the end, Piper had done all the raising. It’d taken forever, but now, finally, her brother and sister were off living their own lives.” Piper, the queen of the bullet journal, plans to fix up the family’s lakeside property her grandparents left the three siblings when they died. Selling it will enable her to study to be a physician’s assistant as she’s always wanted. However, just as the goal seems in sight, Gavin and Winnie come home, ostensibly for Piper’s 30th birthday, and then never leave. Turns out, Piper’s brother and sister have recently managed to get into a couple buckets of trouble, and they need some time to reevaluate their options. They aren’t willing to share their problems with Piper, though they’ve been completely open with each other. And Winnie, who’s pregnant, has been very open with Piper’s neighbor Emmitt Reid and his visiting son, Camden, since the baby’s father is Cam’s younger brother, Rowan, who died a few months earlier in a car accident. Everyone has issues to navigate, made more complicated by Gavin and Winnie’s swearing Cam to secrecy just as he and Piper try—and fail—to ignore their attraction to each other. Shalvis keeps the physical and emotional tension high, though the siblings’ refusal to share with Piper becomes tedious and starts to feel childish.

Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296139-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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