A masterfully drawn, if sad, work of experimental coming-of-age fiction.

PAPI

Most children believe their parents are perfect, and the realization that they aren’t typically comes as something of a shock.

But the 8-year-old unnamed protagonist of Dominican writer Indiana’s English-language debut is not typical. In fact, she’s always had mixed feelings about Papi, the father who can bring her from agony to exultation in the course of an afternoon. On one hand, Papi is larger than life, presenting himself as if he owns the world and everything in it. Cocky and brash, he drips wealth and conspicuous consumption. Is he really important, she wonders? If so, why? The answers to these basic questions are far more elusive than the little girl would like, but as she bounces between Papi’s U.S. and Dominican mansions, clues about his less-than-legal vocation come to the fore. She notices, for example, that people fawn all over her dad and hang on to his every word as they beg for handouts and favors. It’s unsettling. Worse, there's another side to Papi. And although the child clearly loves her dad and is thrilled to be part of his entourage, she has also had to reckon with the fact that Papi can be irresponsible, conniving, and cutthroat. Furthermore, she knows that he treats women badly and has herself been on the receiving end of his broken promises and blatant lies. Not surprisingly, the child is perplexed, and as she struggles to make sense of the dysfunction, images gleaned from horror movies, science fiction, telenovelas, and fantasy collide with her lived experience. Throughout, long run-on sentences force readers to sort through a dizzying array of words, emotions, and images. Palpable pain spills forth, as do the girl’s confusion, angst, and tumultuous inner life.

A masterfully drawn, if sad, work of experimental coming-of-age fiction.

Pub Date: March 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-226-24489-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS

The story of the entangled affairs of a group of exceedingly smart and self-possessed creative types.

Frances, an aloof and intelligent 21-year-old living in Dublin, is an aspiring poet and communist. She performs her spoken-word pieces with her best friend and ex-lover, Bobbi, who is equally intellectual but gregarious where Frances is shy and composed where Frances is awkward. When Melissa, a notable writer and photographer, approaches the pair to offer to do a profile of them, they accept excitedly. While Bobbi is taken with Melissa, Frances becomes infatuated by her life—her success, her beautiful home, her actor husband, Nick. Nick is handsome and mysterious and, it turns out, returns Frances’ attraction. Although he can sometimes be withholding of his affection (he struggles with depression), they begin a passionate affair. Frances and Nick’s relationship makes difficult the already tense (for its intensity) relationship between Frances and Bobbi. In the midst of this complicated dynamic, Frances is also managing endometriosis and neglectful parents—an abusive, alcoholic father and complicit mother. As a narrator, Frances describes all these complex fragments in an ethereal and thoughtful but self-loathing way. Rooney captures the mood and voice of contemporary women and their interpersonal connections and concerns without being remotely predictable. In her debut novel, she deftly illustrates psychology’s first lesson: that everyone is doomed to repeat their patterns.

A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-451-49905-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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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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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

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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