A moving novel of family, history and dreams deferred that captures the joys and pains of both sisterhood and romantic love.

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A deftly conjured historical novel dealing with the darker side of love and familial legacy.

“It’s a wonder how some relatives can bring out the worst in you,” a minor character muses in Shainin’s cutting debut novel, which examines the fraught matrices of rivalry, desire and resentment within two generations of a German immigrant family in Queens, New York, in the mid-20th century. Two sisters—willful, sensuous Lottie and younger, anxious Sabine—serve as the story’s emotional and narrative focus; Shainin introduces their contrasting personalities in childhood, then follows them to America and throughout their adult lives. Although the book progresses chronologically for the most part (the first and last chapters, narrated by Sabine’s younger daughter, are the exceptions), the plot is not strictly linear, as it focuses on quotidian moments of interpersonal significance rather than a series of remarkable events. From chapter to chapter, it’s often difficult to tell how much time has passed or just what’s transpired in the interim, but this is one of the pleasures of this impeccably constructed book: The arguments are repeated, but the characters remain stagnant. Though Lottie and Sabine choose radically different mates, both men drink too much; each in her own way, the sisters find themselves resigned to the limitations of married, working-class life. The world of mid-century New York City, in particular, comes to life through Shainin’s fine sense of detail: “Today the East River was the color of her mother’s unpolished pewter plates. Only when a tugboat’s passage broke the dull skin did Lottie feel the water had any dimension at all.” Although the book loses a bit of its precision toward the end as it surveys the last decades, its haunting, complex final passage is recompense enough. Overall, this debut is resplendently heartbreaking.

A moving novel of family, history and dreams deferred that captures the joys and pains of both sisterhood and romantic love.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4507-1750-2

Page Count: 241

Publisher: Above Your Station Press

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 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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Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

ALMOST JUST FRIENDS

Piper Manning is determined to sell her family’s property so she can leave her hometown behind, but when her siblings come back with life-changing secrets and her sexy neighbor begins to feel like “The One,” she might have to redo her to-do list.

As children, Piper and her younger siblings, Gavin and Winnie, were sent to live with their grandparents in Wildstone, California, from the Congo after one of Gavin’s friends was killed. Their parents were supposed to meet them later but never made it. Piper wound up being more of a parent than her grandparents, though: “In the end, Piper had done all the raising. It’d taken forever, but now, finally, her brother and sister were off living their own lives.” Piper, the queen of the bullet journal, plans to fix up the family’s lakeside property her grandparents left the three siblings when they died. Selling it will enable her to study to be a physician’s assistant as she’s always wanted. However, just as the goal seems in sight, Gavin and Winnie come home, ostensibly for Piper’s 30th birthday, and then never leave. Turns out, Piper’s brother and sister have recently managed to get into a couple buckets of trouble, and they need some time to reevaluate their options. They aren’t willing to share their problems with Piper, though they’ve been completely open with each other. And Winnie, who’s pregnant, has been very open with Piper’s neighbor Emmitt Reid and his visiting son, Camden, since the baby’s father is Cam’s younger brother, Rowan, who died a few months earlier in a car accident. Everyone has issues to navigate, made more complicated by Gavin and Winnie’s swearing Cam to secrecy just as he and Piper try—and fail—to ignore their attraction to each other. Shalvis keeps the physical and emotional tension high, though the siblings’ refusal to share with Piper becomes tedious and starts to feel childish.

Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296139-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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