Engaging action on both land and sea with well-drawn characters.

RAVEN'S RISK

This third volume of a mid-19th-century family saga, set on the banks of the Susquehanna River in Maryland, focuses on a vital addition to a private fleet.

It is 1843, and Benjamin and Sonja Pulaski have won the salvage rights to the schooner Raven, a former slave ship. They have settled in a rented house in Lapidum, facing the canal that runs along the river, just south of the Mason-Dixon Line, separating slave-state Maryland from free-state Pennsylvania. The Raven is a substantial addition to Ben’s fleet of three barges, and the vessel will prove to be a dangerous turning point in the couple’s lives. When the new manager of a bank, at the direction of the villainous Lydia Binterfield, issues the Pulaskis an eviction order, they are forced to move to the nearby town of Havre de Grace. They take up temporary residence in “the Pink House,” run by the irrepressible widow Mamie Stewart. Now that he is the owner of an ocean-worthy ship, Ben can expand his cargo service, leaving the barges for coal runs along the canals and the Chesapeake while he and Sonja use the Raven to convey sugar, rum, and mercantile items to and from the Carolinas. They can also transport rescued slaves and kidnapped blacks to the North. Ben, who had previously hidden a few runaway slaves in his barges, now enters a complicated and treacherous business. Lackey’s (Blood on the Chesapeake, 2016, etc.) series successfully combines nautical adventures with multiple personal dramas while sharply examining the blight of slavery. The novel’s depiction of the increasing hostilities between slave owners and abolitionists serves as a graphic harbinger of the Civil War, still almost two decades away. In contrast to the more violent aspects of the tale is the tender rebuilding of the relationship between Ben and Sonja, each still haunted by traumatic experiences from the earlier volumes. Lackey’s attention to historical details—the process of moving the barges through the canal locks, and the specifics of meals and clothing—deftly brings the era to life. And a few real plot surprises keep the narrative lively.

Engaging action on both land and sea with well-drawn characters.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-83132-8

Page Count: 390

Publisher: Heron Oaks

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2018

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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