Forgetting Tommie

A woman’s life changes when her friend develops Alzheimer’s disease and unknowingly reveals a closely kept secret.
Dara, Tommie and Meg have been best friends since childhood. Over the decades, they’ve seen each other through marriages, children and hard times: Dara’s breast cancer, Tommie’s divorce and the death of Tommie’s only child, Jessica, who was 22 and pregnant when she died from leukemia. Dara is at first reluctant to acknowledge what’s happening to Tommie; she finds herself enjoying a trip to Las Vegas, especially cherishing “the sensation…that she still seemed to be moving in an unreal world where nothing bad could happen.” When Tommie lets slip a long-buried secret—Jerry, Dara’s husband, was actually Jessica’s father—Dara thinks: “This must be what it feels like to die.” Hurt and reeling, Dara flees to Las Vegas, where she becomes friends with a young dancer who puts her up. Eventually, she finds work as a waitress and meets a charming widower. As she reconsiders her life, Dara will have to decide what she really wants and where she belongs. Paul (Sins of the Empress, 2013, etc.) deftly sketches this quickly moving story, impressively differentiating the three best friends. As the novel begins, for example, Dara plays bridge because all her friends do, even though she hates it; she’s so genteel that she “had never said ‘sucks’ out loud,” but by the end of the novel, when Dara is considering returning home, she’s able to tell Meg, “I hate bridge, and the book club sucks.” Paul gives Dara an interesting foil in Margaret/Amber/Tatiana, the name-changing young dancer who gives her a place to stay and challenges some preconceptions; her relationship with lonely widower Hal is also delicately handled. Paul adds nuance and feeling to what could be a simple wish-fulfillment fantasy.

Although the motif of a fed-up middle-aged woman taking off to consider her options isn’t new, Paul delivers a thoughtful take on it.

Pub Date: May 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1497515598

Page Count: 166

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

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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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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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