An ambitious plot that fails to cohere into either insight or revelation.



Troubled 22-year-old Emma Powers lands in the middle of a mystery bigger than her own actions when she meets Earl, a feral boy living seemingly alone in the Black Hills of South Dakota, who hides his face behind an elaborate tinfoil mask.

Emma is on the run. Her destination is the Badlands, where she hopes to uphold her end of the suicide pact she made with her stepbrother, Ray. In addition to her filthy Doc Martens and despised “set of double Ds,” she’s carrying with her the baggage of her and Ray’s obsessive relationship, her complicity in his death, the emotional scars of her father’s childhood abandonment, a surgical wound from her recent emergency hysterectomy, and the seeds of a cancer she refuses to treat. She also has a hearty addiction to Vicodin, and, under its fuzzy influence, she hitches a ride with Lowell, a “white dude who thinks tribal tattoos are a grand idea,” who is on his way to kidnap his young daughter and take her to the West Coast. When Lowell’s generally creepy vibe tips over into sexual violence, Emma shoots him and steals his van, leaving him to freeze in the impending blizzard. In search of gas, Emma pulls off at an abandoned diner, and there she meets Earl, an approximately 8-year-old boy who hides behind a tinfoil mask. As Emma struggles to get back on the road, Earl draws her further and further into the secrets that abound in his dark life. We meet George, Earl’s abusive father, whom Earl has attempted to poison with a stolen bottle of Emma’s pills, and learn what exactly is in the cellar Earl would like Emma to throw George into. As the extent of George’s abuse becomes clear, Emma decides to take Earl with her, though she is unclear where her own journey will end—but George and a vengeful Lowell have other plans for them both. Marked by fire and ice, Moulton’s debut insists on upping its ante at every turn. The result is a preponderance of conflagrations that consume not only the ready tinder of the abandoned ghost town Earl calls home, but also all semblance of rational character-building. In spite of the intricate rendering of this cold and remote landscape, the story itself feels false and vague, more like smoke than fire.

An ambitious plot that fails to cohere into either insight or revelation.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-374-53830-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.


A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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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