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The author of The Fermata (1994), among others, offers an extended dramatic monologue by a nine-year-old American girl living in England, a plotless series of riffs exploring the curiosities of a life among English-speaking foreigners. It’s a promising idea, and Baker, a dedicated miniaturist who got an entire novel (Mezzanine, 1988) out of a trip to buy a pair of shoelaces, ought to have found such a venue congenial. There are dangers, however, that he wasn—t entirely able to avoid.For one thing, tininess is not inevitably interesting,but can seem merely trivial. “Babies learn the words for their feet and toes and fingers quite early,” his nine-year-old Nory observes, “because they can hold them close to their faces, and they learn about their eyes and nose and mouth because they are on their faces, but for some reason they are never terribly interested in their ankles.” This leads into a consideration of how Achilles’ mother dipped him “head-first into the Watersticks,” and, Nory explains, how “she held him by pinching hard on the back part of the foot, above his heel.— If one is delighted by the misprision of “Watersticks” for the Water Styx, and persuaded by the youthful trendiness of such adverbs as “tremendously” and “totally,” then this extended take offers a certain low-level charm. For those with less tolerance for the narrator’s cuteness (or the author’s delight in his own imposture), that charm is likely to wear thin very quickly.And once that happens, the reader will start to notice all the small errors, which in this kind of performance are nearly fatal. Nory remembers her fear of the Tweety monster, which was “just simply a monster version of Tweety-bird in a Sylvester and Tweety tape—Tweety turned into it when he drank a special potion. No reason to be scared of a casual little cartoon.” What, the word —casual— from a nine-year-old? It rings wrong, totally. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-679-43933-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1998

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Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

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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