A thought-provoking and ultimately moving story that looks at love, human nature, and conservative religion.

MASJID MORNING

In the latest novel from Morris (Canoedling in Cleveland, 2014, etc.), a pair of star-crossed lovers—one Muslim, one Christian—face familial and societal pressures in rural Maryland.

Pre-med student Atif Bhati, the young son of Pakistani Muslim parents, and high school senior Amy Breckenridge, the daughter of a prosperous American dairy farmer, experience personal chemistry almost from the first moment they meet. Early on, Amy expresses curiosity about Islam, and Atif is pleased by her open-mindedness and happy to teach her what he knows. As their relationship deepens, the entrenched beliefs of their parents become more and more problematic, as each family harbors issues about the other’s community and faith. Atif's father, the chief surgeon at a local hospital, is spearheading a movement to build a new mosque for the local Muslim community, and he tells Atif about the town’s mulish opposition and frustrating red tape. The conflicts among the families and townspeople are eventually felt in Atif and Amy’s relationship, as well. Morris braids the various tensions so smoothly into the narrative that even the most hard-line, ideological secondary characters feel believable. But the novel’s main strength is its handling of its simplest plotline: the slow build of Atif and Amy’s romance. Morris fleshes it out with a good deal of humor and sensitivity, which allows him to work in several detailed explorations of theological topics as his characters examine the tenets of Christianity and Islam from various angles. The ending is predictable, but the author keeps the pacing taut as the story plays out against the backdrop of a complicated, modern world.

A thought-provoking and ultimately moving story that looks at love, human nature, and conservative religion.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5372-3327-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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