An elegant if overly manipulated structural design parallels the insightful but overly simplified psychological evolution of...


Canadian born Huston (Dolce Agonia, 2001, etc.) won the Prix Femina in France for this novel, which traces four generations of a family while examining how unshared secrets shape each succeeding/preceding generation.

In California in 2004, six-year-old Sol, a brilliant, spoiled brat, attends a Protestant church as a compromise between his Catholic-born mother, Tessa, and Jewish-raised father, Randall. After surgery more or less removes the birthmark Sol inherited from Randall, Sol’s grandmother Sadie orchestrates a trip to Munich with the whole family, including Sol’s German-born great-grandmother Erra. The trip is not a success. Flash back to 1982 when six-year-old Randall, also brilliant but more sweet-natured than Sol, basks in the love of his father, a Jewish playwright in his 40s, and desperately tries to please his 26-year-old mother Sadie, a tense perfectionist. Randall loves the year he lives with his parents in Israel while Sadie, a graduate student of the Holocaust and recent convert to Judaism, does research. Then public and personal disasters conflate: Shortly after a controversial Israeli-backed massacre in Lebanon, a car accident leaves Sadie permanently crippled. In 1962, lonely six-year-old Sadie must live with her stern Canadian grandparents while her bohemian unwed mother Kristina finds herself. Sadie, who considers the birthmark on her bottom “dirty,” is overjoyed when Kristina, who has changed her name to Erra, marries the kindly Jewish manager of her burgeoning musical career and brings Sadie to live with them. Then a strange foreign man shows up and shatters Sadie’s fragile security. In 1944, Kristina considers herself the adored youngest daughter of a solid German family until her older “brother” explains that, like him, she was stolen by the Nazis from her real parents, and the two forge a secret bond. After liberation, Kristina is adopted by Canadian parents. To keep her “brother” close, she names her birthmark after him.

An elegant if overly manipulated structural design parallels the insightful but overly simplified psychological evolution of vulnerable children (excepting demon Sol) into reactive adults.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8021-7051-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Black Cat/Grove

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2008

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

Did you like this book?