An intricate feminist/New Age fantasy, set in the near future, throws an ordinary young woman into the center of a mythic drama: she is to be a postmodern Mary, immaculately conceiving a feminine savior who'll restore the spirit of a revolution gone sour. Jennifer Mazdan, preoccupied with her divorce, doesn't care much about Teller's Day in Poughkeepsie—Tellers are something like shamans, celebrity storytellers with the power to transport their listeners inside the very essence of the myths, or ``Pictures,'' they tell. Magical spiritual rites and sacrifices govern every detail of life in Jennifer's world, but the elite Tellers, who represent and interpret the will of the Founders (the mostly feminine gang of heroines who've sparked a great spiritual revolution) have become corrupt and empty of real spirit. Everywhere religion has become rote. Now, Jennifer is compelled to hear a certain Teller only because of the awful nagging pressure of the neighbors in her ``hive''—a sort of mystical Levittown. Inexplicably dropping into a deep sleep on the way, however, she has a strange dream that somehow impregnates her. Although she tries to ignore her growing pregnancy, she gets more and more evidence that she's been picked by a supreme ``Agency'' to bear a child who will return her empty world to the days of great feminist spiritual heroines. As Jennifer tracks her husband through the streets of Manhattan, more auspicious events take place—an ice- cream vendor, for instance, tells her: ``there are only two things in the world. Suffering and ecstasy. Do you understand?'' Finally, exiled to an ugly apartment and attended by three midwives and the holy ice-cream man, Jennifer gives birth to the little girl who will bring down the empty Tellers. Widely imaginative and entertaining, but with a thousand loose threads. Despite the beguiling, often witty details, Pollack (The New Tarot—not reviewed) overloads the book.

Pub Date: May 29, 1992

ISBN: 0-87951-447-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1992

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

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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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