An exciting debut that rises to the risks it takes.

HUMAN ODDITIES

STORIES

Tales of fantastic, unbearably embodied humanity.

Jablonski’s debut story collection is filled with insistent bodies, carved open, sewn up, cut apart, made monstrous, made beautiful or disguised as someone or something else altogether. Her characters navigate the difficulties of being human as best they can, but birth, life and death mark them for all to see. The book opens with a trilogy of stories: Pam, a once-battered wife and hairdresser in late middle age, tells of her encounter with a long-ago famous pair of conjoined twins, now down on their luck; Valerie, Pam’s adult daughter, tells the story of her mother’s ruptured tummy tuck, and her brother’s mysterious wasting disease; finally, Valerie, as a child, witnesses the slow death of her father and her baby brother’s kidnapping. The remaining six stories return to these themes of doubleness, separation, death and loss. We meet a fat man grieving his abusive father, an intrepid legless child who becomes the star of her own solo freak show, a one-legged boy separated from his conjoined twin brother at birth and a drag queen teetering on the edge of self-destruction. For the most part, Jablonski handles her material with consummate skill and care. She subsumes the innately spectacular nature of her stories under an elliptical lyricism that brings her characters’ emotional lives delicately, respectfully to the fore. Even at their most self-hating moments, they possess a wry sense of irony, an amazing resilience and, occasionally, a heartbreaking joy. Some stories are richer than others—“Solo in the Spotlight” is more brilliant sketch than full-length story—but the collection as a whole is strong. Two of the longer stories, the opening piece, “Pam Calls Her Mother on Five-Cent Sundays,” and “One of Us,” about no-longer-conjoined twins, are remarkable.

An exciting debut that rises to the risks it takes.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2005

ISBN: 1-59376-084-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Shoemaker & Hoard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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