Fresh turf for American fiction from a talented young writer.

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THE CRADLE

In this first novel by the author of the story collection Trouble (2006), a young man and, separately, a middle-aged woman test their capacity to love and be loved.

As a favor to his pregnant wife, Matt takes a few days off from the plant where he works to try to find the cradle Marissa had as a baby. She wants it for their son. The cradle dates back to the Civil War, and it was stolen when Marissa was 15, around the same time Marissa’s mother walked out. Neither has been seen since. With a relative’s former address as his only clue, Matt sets off, traveling through towns large and small, from Green Bay, Wis., to Walton, Minn., to Rensselaer, Ind., with a brief detour (via Internet video hook-up) to Antarctica. Along the way, Matt finds much more than he anticipated, including how his own childhood—18 years of foster homes and state agencies—shaped his feelings about family. Ten years later, in a well-heeled neighborhood of Chicago, Renee and her husband Bill prepare to say goodbye to their only son Adam, a Marine who is leaving for Iraq in a matter of days. Affable and bright, Adam believes he has a duty to serve his country—a position not shared by Renee, a children’s-book author turned poet who passionately protested the Vietnam War when she was in college. As the family works to keep their last days together normal—they go out for donuts; watch a football game on television—Renee’s feelings about Adam’s impending departure threaten to tear from her lips a long-buried secret. One not even her husband knows. Somerville’s two story lines unfold and ultimately dovetail with a quiet confidence. This meditative novel dignifies small gestures, which bring to life the compelling characters. A bonus is the fresh regional sensibility the author brings to Matt’s road trip through the Northern Middle West states.

Fresh turf for American fiction from a talented young writer.

Pub Date: March 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-316-03612-2

Page Count: 204

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2009

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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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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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