A novel in stories that oscillates between ordinariness and brilliance.

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A RAINY SEASON

In Ihejirika’s multifaceted debut novel, the death of a dictator shakes up the denizens of an apartment complex in Lagos, Nigeria.

It’s June 1998, and Sani Abacha, the “dark-goggled” leader of Nigeria’s military dictatorship, has died. That event has consequences for the inhabitants of the apartments at 1998 New Nigeria Road. They represent the diverse ethnic, religious and economic groups within their country and have either benefited or suffered under Abacha’s regime. Now, these businessmen, criminals, students, servants, spouses and mistresses must each evaluate the personal ramifications of the power shift as democracy threatens to overturn the status quo. As eight narrators tell their tales of survival in a corrupt system, readers are treated to the recent history of Africa’s most populous nation. The stories focus on the trials of attempting to do right by one’s people, one’s family and oneself. In one tale, a pimp of high-end escorts wonders if the incoming government’s ministers will have the same taste for companionship as those of the old. In another, a conflicted public relations wizard, thrilled at the promise of a new order, may have to flee the country because of the work he did for the previous one. Ihejirika masterfully presents the complex systems of patronage, exploitation and outright theft that exist at all levels of society. He illustrates his characters’ harsh pragmatism with sympathetic exactness even as he continually reminds readers of the idealism that lies dormant within them. The prose does have a distracting fondness for American idioms, and earlier chapters sometimes feel bogged down by exposition. The casual style of narration also works against the tension of some storylines. Ihejirika often relies on concluding twists to illuminate his chapters, which yields moments that are either wonderful or predictable. At his best, however, he presents characters of moral complexity that are suited to their times and suggests that they can only begin to evolve when confronted with the startling fact that their system is moving on without them.

A novel in stories that oscillates between ordinariness and brilliance.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1460244951

Page Count: 280

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2014

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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