AN EYE FOR DARK PLACES

A fantastic reality beyond the bleak one offered a lonely woman—at the end of her tether in a fragmented future England- -serves as the wellspring of hope in this ambitious, original debut from Illinois-based Marder. Locked in a loveless marriage, Sephony sees hands everywhere: scuttling across floors, clawing up the furniture, and dancing duets in the most unlikely places. Neither her practical husband nor her self-absorbed children see what she sees or understand what she feels, so when a hole appears in the pantry floor and a mysterious stranger carrying two chickens beckons her to descend a ladder after him into it, she puts on her coat and follows. Her guide, Claro, takes her through a wondrous terra incognita full of strange sights and creatures, eventually bringing her to the treehouse where he lives with his family. Although she's fallen in love with him, she is soon forced to return to her own domain, coming through another hole into a jungle in the midst of what used to be Regent's Park in London. With her homecoming strained by her refusal to tell either the family or the police where she went, Sephony increases the distance from the life she had by renewing a long-lapsed acquaintance with Aaron, her first love. She also turns her back on her privileged kind by caring for the Dulls—an entire class of behaviorally conditioned laborers living a subhuman existence in warrens in the city—and finally leaves her husband in order to be with Aaron—regaining the love of her rebellious daughter in the process. Painfully overextended and sketchy at times, but, still, an imaginative first effort from a distinctive voice that deserves to be heard again.

Pub Date: July 6, 1993

ISBN: 0-316-54606-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1993

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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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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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