A lightly fictionalized account of the first Jesuit in China that informs but fails to enthrall.




A historical novel dramatizes the life and work of a Roman Catholic missionary.

Born in the mid-16th century to a wealthy family in the Italian town of Macerata, Matteo Ricci receives a classical education from his beloved tutor, Father Niccolò Bencivegni. One day, while still a boy, Matteo learns that the priest will be leaving Macerata for Rome in order to join an exciting new religious order: the Society of Jesus. “Just before you were born, Matteo,” Bencivegni explains of the order’s co-founder, “a Christian missionary from Spain named Francis Xavier wanted very much to show the people of China the virtues of becoming Christian. But he became sick and died before he could even try.” When he reaches adulthood, Matteo joins the society—also known as the Jesuits—himself, much to the consternation of his parents. Matteo develops a fascination for cartography and dreams of becoming a missionary in the still mysterious Far East. His wish is made a reality when the society sends him to India and eventually China, where he will attempt to fulfill the dream of Xavier. But to truly bring Christianity to China, Matteo will have to find a way to meet the emperor by gaining entrance to the Forbidden City—the imperial palace that no European has ever visited before. Gregory’s (God’s Messenger, 2017) narration possesses a fablelike quality that makes the whole novel feel like an elongated bedtime story: “Deep within the strange lands and customs of China, the Jesuits found comfort in their familiar routine of prayer and meditation. Naturally they spoke Italian among themselves and sang simple hymns in Latin.” By presenting Ricci’s work as a quest to realize the dream of Xavier, the author provides a simple but effective arc to the priest’s life. As is usual for the Mentoris Project series—which focuses on notable Italians and Italian Americans—the author takes a singularly positive view of her subject, which flattens Ricci a bit as a character. The book doesn’t quite satisfy as true fiction—at least not for adults—but the tale will teach readers a lot about Ricci and the Jesuit mission in China.

A lightly fictionalized account of the first Jesuit in China that informs but fails to enthrall.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-947431-23-2

Page Count: 178

Publisher: Barbera Foundation, Inc.

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2019

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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