A bleak and depressing—yet searingly forthright and honest—confrontation with the mean streets of urban decay.

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THE RESIDUE YEARS

The time Jackson chronicles here is indeed residue, particularly the little that remains of hope in the unforgiving life of a decaying urban neighborhood in Portland, Ore.

Champ and his mother, Grace, know drugs. Champ eventually deals, and his mother uses and, now coming off a jail term, desperately wants to stay clean. Grace winds up getting a menial job, though she has to lie about her felony conviction to get it, and she looks for strength and guidance from her church. Her faith is tested, however, when Big Ken, the father of Champ’s younger brothers KJ and Canaan, brings Grace to court because he wants sole custody. Grace starts using again and, by the end of the novel, even has to resort to selling herself to feed her habit. Champ is bright and wants to continue his college education, but he finds life on the streets seductive and compelling—and it’s about all he knows. He has a girlfriend, Kim, whom he’s made pregnant, though he has little compunction about being unfaithful to her. To make ends meet, he starts dealing again, constantly trying to outsmart the cops who are understandably skeptical about his roaming the streets at night. Eventually, he and Grace are both caught with some marijuana when Champ is driving her away from a sexual assignation. Throughout the bleak narrative, Champ and his mother alternate chapters as Jackson moves us from the harsh and bitter voice of Champ to the milder but no less desperate voice of his mother.

A bleak and depressing—yet searingly forthright and honest—confrontation with the mean streets of urban decay.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-62040-028-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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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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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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