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Bunyan's Guide to the Great American Wildlife

A compellingly readable contemporary fantasia set in a vivid New York of the mind.

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A novel follows a man and a woman in the wilderness of New York City.

The two main characters in this tale, John Bunyan and Felicity Fawkler, first meet at the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park in 2009. She’s an expat Brit of ancient lineage (she tells readers that her family “almost had a stitch in the Bayeux Tapestry”), or as John puts it, “Church of England, slender, little beanpole, waxy pallor of a holy relic, blush of a broken nose, cupid bow lips, preternatural and possibly, yes probably, possessed.” John himself is a hipster-style, fedora-wearing, struggling writer with a passion for the wilderness and a fascination with the animal dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History. John’s father is an antiquarian art dealer specializing in maps and medieval texts. Felicity becomes drawn to John immediately, despite the shadowy presence in his life of another woman, named Willow, a lonely and troubled soul whose childhood diaries readers sometimes peruse—they describe her grandfather’s friend Broady as a cryptozoologist. She hears stories of “Fearsome Critters” like the mangrove killfish, the snalygaster, and so on. (Broady asks the 9-year-old Willow: “I thought everyone knew what a Fillyloo is?”) Canterel (The Jolly Coroner, 2016) weaves together the stories of John and Felicity with a good deal of skill at handling the very elliptical nature of his narrative, which shifts viewpoint and time frame in a series of strange, surrealist moves. Through it all run two constants: the great wildlife guide John is composing and New York, a location Canterel adroitly reimagines as a sprawling wonderland in which anything is possible. “Even you, John, would agree that New York is a strange place at five in the morning,” John muses in a typical observation. “It’s almost as if the place shouldn’t exist. It is a city between two worlds.” As his slightly manic plot unfolds, Canterel deftly builds tension around John’s relationship with the enigmatic Willow, leading to long-telegraphed revelations at the book’s end.

A compellingly readable contemporary fantasia set in a vivid New York of the mind.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-911079-47-7

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Acorn Independent Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

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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