In this luminous, revelatory study on the connection between person and place, Keni knits a delicate tale of an entangled...

ESPERANZA STREET

The clash between corrupt developers “lining each other’s pockets” and the residents of the bustling seaport village of Puerto, in the Philippines, serves as the backdrop for a tender coming-of-age story in this contemplative debut novel.

Joseph Santos, a 15-year-old houseboy at Mary Morelos’ boardinghouse, tells the story of Esperanza Street, “one of the oldest streets in Puerto,” where “everyone knew who was more interested in their brother’s wife than their own, or who’d lied about their son’s school grades, or sold their neighbor’s dog,” during a six-month period in 1981. This engrossing novel illuminates the lives of Esperanza’s working-class citizens in chapters resembling high-resolution photographs, with Joseph’s keen eye as the lens. While Joseph confronts the “barkada boys,” who threaten anyone opposing Esperanza’s imminent gentrification, explores his feelings for the midwife’s daughter, and longs for the attention of his proud though distant father, he seeks comfort in books. “I think now that I read with the hope something would finally arrive that would illuminate everything, a single piece of knowledge that would show me how my life was meant to unfold.” As the residents of Esperanza Street rally to protest the transformation of their beloved barrio, Keni nimbly unspools Joseph’s struggle to make peace with his history and heredity, his childhood street that “lulled us all with its apparent constancy,” and his journey to adulthood.

In this luminous, revelatory study on the connection between person and place, Keni knits a delicate tale of an entangled and endangered community.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-908276-48-3

Page Count: 326

Publisher: & Other Stories

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

THINGS FALL APART

Written with quiet dignity that builds to a climax of tragic force, this book about the dissolution of an African tribe, its traditions, and values, represents a welcome departure from the familiar "Me, white brother" genre.

Written by a Nigerian African trained in missionary schools, this novel tells quietly the story of a brave man, Okonkwo, whose life has absolute validity in terms of his culture, and who exercises his prerogative as a warrior, father, and husband with unflinching single mindedness. But into the complex Nigerian village filters the teachings of strangers, teachings so alien to the tribe, that resistance is impossible. One must distinguish a force to be able to oppose it, and to most, the talk of Christian salvation is no more than the babbling of incoherent children. Still, with his guns and persistence, the white man, amoeba-like, gradually absorbs the native culture and in despair, Okonkwo, unable to withstand the corrosion of what he, alone, understands to be the life force of his people, hangs himself. In the formlessness of the dying culture, it is the missionary who takes note of the event, reminding himself to give Okonkwo's gesture a line or two in his work, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1958

ISBN: 0385474547

Page Count: 207

Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1958

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Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.

THE HANDMAID'S TALE

The time is the not-so-distant future, when the US's spiraling social freedoms have finally called down a reaction, an Iranian-style repressive "monotheocracy" calling itself the Republic of Gilead—a Bible-thumping, racist, capital-punishing, and misogynistic rule that would do away with pleasure altogether were it not for one thing: that the Gileadan women, pure and true (as opposed to all the nonbelieving women, those who've ever been adulterous or married more than once), are found rarely fertile.

Thus are drafted a whole class of "handmaids," whose function is to bear the children of the elite, to be fecund or else (else being certain death, sent out to be toxic-waste removers on outlying islands). The narrative frame for Atwood's dystopian vision is the hopeless private testimony of one of these surrogate mothers, Offred ("of" plus the name of her male protector). Lying cradled by the body of the barren wife, being meanwhile serviced by the husband, Offred's "ceremony" must be successful—if she does not want to join the ranks of the other disappeared (which include her mother, her husband—dead—and small daughter, all taken away during the years of revolt). One Of her only human conduits is a gradually developing affair with her master's chauffeur—something that's balanced more than offset, though, by the master's hypocritically un-Puritan use of her as a kind of B-girl at private parties held by the ruling men in a spirit of nostalgia and lust. This latter relationship, edging into real need (the master's), is very effectively done; it highlights the handmaid's (read Everywoman's) eternal exploitation, profane or sacred ("We are two-legged wombs, that's all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices"). Atwood, to her credit, creates a chillingly specific, imaginable night-mare. The book is short on characterization—this is Atwood, never a warm writer, at her steeliest—and long on cynicism—it's got none of the human credibility of a work such as Walker Percy's Love In The Ruins. But the scariness is visceral, a world that's like a dangerous and even fatal grid, an electrified fence.

Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 1985

ISBN: 038549081X

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1985

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