Subtly drawn scenes of naturalistic beauty and sudden brutality redeem Gatewood's distracting tendency to write dialogue,...


A first novel set in 1930s New Mexico finds an extraordinarily resourceful, but emotionally wounded, 18-year-old on a violent search for moral truth.

Fed-up with his drunk, dangerously abusive father, Trude Mason puts his mother on a horse, loads up a mule with provisions, saddles up his trusty mare Triften, and heads for Colorado, where he hopes to find ranch work and make a new start. Though he stares down his knife-wielding father, Trude encounters disaster in the mountains that leaves his mother dead. Later, he witnesses and fails to avenge the murder of a young black girl's child by a gloating, well-dressed Englishman. Left in the mountains for dead, Trude wanders into a nameless town whose peculiar, pathetic Cormac McCarthy–esque denizens are betting that the arrival of a railroad spur will bring them wealth and civilization. Though he finds a friend in the wistful rancher Charlie Ford, Trude sees right through the pretentiousness of most of the townsfolk, finding little to like in the drunken hedonism of a young Italian immigrant John Frank, the gloating bigotry of the Ralston brothers, and the bloviating mayor, who lectures Trude about showing respect for authority. Trude challenges that authority when he discovers that the black girl has been imprisoned unjustly and might even be executed. Trude has to take justice into his own hands, and, in this postmodern updating of the formula western, heroic action leads to nothing but loss and sorrow. Only after returning to the mountains can Trude come to terms with the grief that plagues his heart.

Subtly drawn scenes of naturalistic beauty and sudden brutality redeem Gatewood's distracting tendency to write dialogue, some trite (an aging mentor remarks, “pain ain’t nothin’ more than the memory of comfort”), without quotation marks.

Pub Date: May 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-8050-6802-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2002

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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