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LET THE DEAD BURY THEIR DEAD

AND OTHER STORIES

A wildly uneven but always original portrait of a southern community—and a stimulating collection of tales by a courageous...

Kenan follows his first novel (Visitation of the Spirits, 1989) with a captivating, baroque history of fictional Tims Creek, North Carolina, whose citizens—both black and white—have experienced more than their share of unearthly wonders.

Tims Creek looks to outsiders like a dull North Carolina backwater settled by the descendants of slaves and slaveholders, now farmers, shop owners, factory workers, and general layabouts. But locals, as Kenan makes clear in the telling, know that nearly every dwelling in this fertile country houses a fascinating, if rarely flattering, tale. The Pickett house harbors the legend of three-year-old Clarence, who foretold his neighbors' fate (whether or not they wanted to hear it) and communicated with the dead until they called him to join them at the age of five; the rundown Williams shack shelters young Dean Williams, who foolishly agreed to seduce the town's richest black man in exchange for the promise of a job as a factory foreman; in the Pearsall home, a middle-aged mother unravels to the point of infanticide; and on her own front porch, old Maggie MacGowan Williams tries to come to terms with the fact of her beloved grandson's homosexuality. In coloring in the background of a town founded by runaway slaves, sustained by hypocritical preachers and ambitious exiled intellectuals, and taken over by bloodless modern-day manipulators—a land in which the dead live side by side with the living and the good fraternize with evil as a matter of course—Kenan switches unpredictably from the seductive rhythms of traditional folk tales to a drier, more distanced narrative voice, and even, in the title story, to a playful takeoff of a scholarly oral history, complete with lengthy footnotes.

A wildly uneven but always original portrait of a southern community—and a stimulating collection of tales by a courageous and humorous author.

Pub Date: April 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-15-149886-5

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1992

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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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