Sad, violent, frustrating stories told in high-energy language, creating a very real imaginary world.


Thirteen stories chronicle the way things go for the African-American residents of Cross River, a fictional town in Maryland, in this debut collection.

A man who fails at hanging himself also fails at entertaining at his son’s birthday party in a ratty Cookie Monster suit. A man who can’t win at much else beats his 11-year-old daughter at chess 202 times in a row. A man trying to find his lost, addicted brother accidentally leads the people he’s hiding from right to him. A man goes to a barber who is certain to ruin his hair…and has his hair ruined. Kids torment their teachers, talk trash, throw rocks, are beaten by their parents, watch pornography on the eve of their religious confirmation. Nothing goes smoothly in Cross River, and most things go very badly indeed. As a footnote in a story called “Party Animal” explains, “It was determined that the CRPD, a largely African American force, was seventeen times more likely to use deadly force against minority suspects than similarly-sized police departments.” A guy on the way to a job interview is mistakenly arrested when he is taken for someone named Juba. Upon his release, he finds out that everyone in town knows about Juba but him. “Some said I was lucky I still had a life. Others tied Juba to a police slaying so many months ago. A good number of people described Juba as a happy-go-lucky guy, the Santa Claus of marijuana peddlers, a grandfatherly guy with good advice and a sack of chronic. Only I, it seemed, had never heard of Juba.” When he finally finds Juba, he finds a true son of Cross River, part ethnographer, part linguist, part historian. This is a town founded on the site of the only successful slave revolt in U.S. history. As the narrator of the final story, “Three Insurrections,” puts it, “They burn down the plantation and kill they masters dead….Got a town standing to this day in America. They ain’t never shut it down.”

Sad, violent, frustrating stories told in high-energy language, creating a very real imaginary world.

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8131-6818-0

Page Count: 202

Publisher: Univ. Press of Kentucky

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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This new Baldwin novel is told by a 19-year-old black girl named Tish in a New York City ghetto about how she fell in love with a young black man, Fonny. He got framed on a rape charge and she got pregnant before they could marry and move into their loft; but Tish and her family Finance a trip to Puerto Rico to track down the rape victim and rescue Fonny, a sculptor with slanted eyes and treasured independence. The book is anomalous for the 1970's with its Raisin in the Sun wholesomeness. It is sometimes saccharine, but it possesses a genuinely sweet and free spirit too. Along with the reflex sprinkles of hate-whitey, there are powerful showdowns between the two black families, and a Frieze of people who — unlike Fonny's father — gave up and "congregated on the garbage heaps of their lives." The style wobbles as Tish mixes street talk with lyricism and polemic and a bogus kind of Young Adult hesitancy. Baldwin slips past the conflict between fighting the garbage heap and settling into a long-gone private chianti-chisel-and-garret idyll, as do Fonny and Tish and the baby. But Baldwin makes the affirmation of the humanity of black people which is all too missing in various kinds of Superfly and sub-fly novels.

Pub Date: May 24, 1974

ISBN: 0307275930

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1974

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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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