Sherman’s insider knowledge illuminates this compassionate character study.


In her debut novel, social worker Sherman (Jailed, 2011) paints a vivid portrait of an older homeless woman in custody on a psychiatric ward.

Mary Motter, once a veterans hospital social worker, now lives on the streets of Oakland, California. One day, drunk and stoned, Mary stumbles upon an abandoned baby outside a hospital. As hallucinations blend with memories of her own baby daughter, given up for adoption five decades ago, Mary feels an overwhelming compulsion to bury the tiny corpse. When she wakes up, though, she is handcuffed in a hospital psychiatric ward: Police tell her the baby was alive when it arrived at the hospital. The next two months are a nightmare of trials, interviews and neurologist appointments as Mary and her lawyers fight involuntary manslaughter charges. Mary’s first-person voice is instantly distinctive, both witty and forthright: “My blisters have blisters. I’m parched as hell.” She seems to blend her past and present; her mother’s funeral, her rebellious adolescence and out-of-wedlock pregnancy, and scenes from her marriages are just as intense as day-to-day hospital life. Sherman ably alternates reminiscences (often dredged up by the sight or smell of food) and present-day action, recording Mary’s confused thoughts and fostering sympathy for this unreliable narrator. The author’s professional experience translates into believable passages detailing group therapy sessions and two patient suicides. She also uses, to good effect, birds as metaphors of lost innocence and crushed hopes. Mary’s matter-of-fact statements about her predicament, however, sometimes lack subtlety: “I was disregarded and discounted….I can’t believe what’s happened to me…the abuse, neglect, not caring.” Readers will most likely empathize with Mary despite occasional emotional browbeating—though they may wish the novel explained precisely how she descended into homelessness.

Sherman’s insider knowledge illuminates this compassionate character study.

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1496071972

Page Count: 222

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2014

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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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This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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