A lively and beautifully crafted novel about the anguish of belief.

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THE BOOK OF HAROLD

THE ILLEGITIMATE SON OF GOD

An astute novel that asks us to take seriously the possibility that Harold Peeks, a relatively mild-mannered computer salesman, is in fact the Son of God, as he announces.

Egerton (stories: How Best to Avoid Dying, 2007, etc.) keeps us deftly balanced between two equally plausible possibilities—that Harold is divine and capable of miracles or that he’s an authentic wacko. In accepting an award for Most Improved Sales Analyst, for example, Harold claims that he might indeed have “an unfair advantage since I am Christ, the Son of God. But thank you all the same.” One thing’s for sure—he’s here to challenge the way we live our lives, and no one is more aware of this fact than fellow computer salesman Blake Waterson. At the beginning of the novel, Blake lives a quintessentially American existence—he’s married to Jennifer, a woman he adores, and has an adolescent daughter named Tammy. They have a comfortable life in Houston, and we infer that Blake has never been inspired to question the general rightness of his life. When Harold quits the computer company, he turns to Blake and tells him he should quit as well because it’s not his vocation. While it might be an exaggeration to say that Harold “performs” miracles, they certainly seem to follow in his wake. When Harold decides to make a pilgrimage from Houston to Austin, Blake and a few ragged others follow him. Toward the end of the journey, Blake finds out that Jennifer, who has been estranged from Blake since he unfathomably began believing in Harold, is ill. Blake rushes back to be with her, but when she dies, he begins to question the nature of a universe—and a God—that could let such suffering happen. The story is narrated with consummate skill, moving nimbly from Blake’s narrative, told in retrospect, to documents from the church of “Haroldism” that grow up around its enigmatic founder.

A lively and beautifully crafted novel about the anguish of belief.

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-9844488-0-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Dalton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2010

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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