HEROES

Cormier (Tenderness, 1997, etc.) again poses a set of chewy moral dilemmas, but he develops them within a sketchy plot more suited to the short-story form. Francis Cassavant returns to Frenchtown after WWII with a Silver Star, with much of his face blown away by a grenade on which he threw himself, and a fixed intention to kill Larry LaSalle. While he waits for Larry, a war hero with a Silver Star of his own, to return from the service, Francis wanders the streets and relives the past: Strong and handsome, Larry had been a hero even before the war, brilliant at bringing out talents in young people, turning shy, unathletic Francis into a table-tennis champ, with enough self-confidence to date lovely classmate Nicole Renard; two years later, back on a triumphant furlough, Larry raped Nicole as Francis stood by in the next room. While Francis’s shocking opening description of what’s left of his face will churn many stomachs, his long wait for Larry is more tedious than tension-building, and the weary tone of his narrative puts a dreary cast over his observations of a post-war world. To readers familiar with Cormier’s work, the climactic confrontation will hold few, if any, surprises. More a deliberately constructed intellectual exercise on the ambiguities of heroism than a story with flesh and blood characters—and, surprising for this author, spelled out as such—this will disappoint readers hoping for another Tenderness. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32590-8

Page Count: 135

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1998

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BURIED ONIONS

Eddie, a young Mexican-American scraping by in the mean streets of Fresno, California, counts four dead relatives and one dead friend in the opening, in-your-face lines of this new novel from Soto (Snapshots from the Wedding, p. 228, etc.). In bleak sentences of whispered beauty, Eddie tells how he dropped out of vocational college and is attempting to get by with odd jobs. His aunt and friends want him to avenge the recent murder of his cousin, but Eddie just wants to find a way out. Everything he tries turns soura stint doing yard work ends when his boss's truck is stolen on Eddie's watchand life is a daily battle for survival. This unrelenting portrait is unsparing in squalid details: The glue sniffers, gangs, bums, casual knifings, filth, and stench are in the forefront of a life without much hope``Laundry wept from the lines, the faded flags of poor, ignorant, unemployable people.'' Soto plays the tale straightthe only sign of a ``happy'' ending is in Eddie's joining the Navy. The result is a sort of Fresno Salaam Bombay without the pockets of humanity that gave the original its charm. A valuable tale, it's one that makes no concessions. (glossary) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-15-201333-4

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1997

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WHAT THE MOON SAW

When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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