A resonant love story, whatever the age of the lovers.

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THE FLOOR OF THE SKY

A small-scale but emotionally rich first novel about an unwed pregnant teen spending the summer with her grandmother in the hardscrabble Nebraska Sandhills.

Lila’s flight-attendant mother sends Lila from Minneapolis to her grandmother Toby’s Nebraska farm to wait out the last months of her unwanted pregnancy. While Lila struggles with her pregnancy and her decision to put her unborn baby up for adoption, her visit stirs up long-simmering tensions for Toby, Toby’s bitter sister Gertie and George, who has worked on the farm for more than 50 years. Seventy-two and long widowed, Toby is no fawning grandma. Tough but loving, she still rides her horse regularly and can work up a man’s passions. It soon comes to light that although he never acted on his feelings, Gertie’s husband, now suffering from Alzheimer’s, was quietly in love with Toby for most of his marriage . . . not exactly a recipe for good sibling relations. Also in love with Toby long, long ago was George’s younger brother, David. When Toby was Lila’s age, she and David tried to run away together. Her father chased them in his car, shot and killed David, then crashed the car, accidentally killing his wife. Toby bore David’s child, who was cared for by distant relatives until he died at 12 of leukemia. Since then, George has secretly acted as Toby’s guardian angel, even through her happy marriage and the adoption of Lila’s mother. His unspoken love makes for irresistible reading. Despite Lila’s small romances and dramas, her story never rises to the dramatic or romantic energy of these oldsters (think Paul Newman with Joanne Woodward). Toward the end, the plot wobbles as the author recognizes, but only partially deflates, the cliché inherent in having a mortgage-holder show up, threatening to sell the farm out from under Toby.

A resonant love story, whatever the age of the lovers.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2006

ISBN: 0-8032-7631-1

Page Count: 242

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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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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With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

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LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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