THE EDGE OF FOREVER

Texan pioneers fight a war of stealth and slaughter against Comanche raiders in this gripping adventure.

With the Confederacy collapsing around them, 14-year-old Tom McKlarren, his mother, Kathryn, and baby sister, Mattie, and their devoted ex-slave, William, set off from Galveston to his Aunt Mollie’s ranch near Waco, hoping for refuge from the anarchy, hyperinflation and bushwhackers that roil the dying rebellion. (Mindful of her civilizing mission, Kathryn hauls an enormous piano along in their mule-drawn wagon.) Alas, the isolated homesteads on the Texas frontier are a source of even greater peril: Comanche Indians—superb horsemen, trackers and guerilla fighters bent on driving the white man from their hunting grounds. When a war party massacres a local family and abducts Kathryn along with Tom’s sweetheart, Sara, he sets out alone on a hopeless quest to rescue the women-folk from a fate worse than death. Fortunately, he meets up with Raifford MacReynolds, a legendary Texas Ranger who comes equipped with decades of Indian-fighting experience, courtly manners and the awesome firepower of his newfangled Henry repeating rifle and long-range Whitworth sniper’s gun. The author serves up well-crafted prose and sharply etched characters in this frontier yarn, complete with fancy shootin’ and ridin’, colorfully terse palaver, untarnished heroism and a ballast of gritty violence. (He doesn’t shy away from the settlers’ period-authentic hatred of Indians, but balances it with a noble, complex Indian scout.) Morris also delivers an engrossing historical novel that steeps readers in the atmospherics of pioneer life and the details of brush-clearing, livestock-tending, food-frying and store-bartering. It’s a bit of a sprawl, but at its center is a fine action odyssey set in the oceanic plains, where there’s no cover from pitiless eyes and survival is a nerve-wracking chess game that requires subtle strategizing, encyclopedic knowledge of horses, cattle, weather and terrain and the ability to read the slightest ripple of dust on a menacing horizon. A vivid, rousing, old-school western.  

 

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1451519204

Page Count: 494

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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