THE LION'S SHARE

A second novel from poet and American Book Review editor Ratner (Bobby's Girl, 1986), whose heroine's struggle for normalcy and fulfillment, while most admirable, packs as about as much punch as the stuffed animals she collects. Like Leroy, the toy ``Lion'' of the title, Ratner's characters are arbitrarily assigned roles that provide the necessary opportunities for 34-year-old Jana to grow. Jana, an artist, gallery director, and curator of an upcoming important art show in New York, was sexually abused as a child at summer camp. Fearful subsequently of men, she has relied on the comfort of Leroy and his pals, so when Ed, grants officer of the corporation underwriting the show, takes an interest in her, Jana is tempted to flee. And in a way she does—temporarily—by spending the summer at Yaddo, but she can't quite forget nice Ed, with the bald-spot and potbelly. A slow and well-documented courtship, including visits to gynecologists, comes next, and Jana becomes a woman at last. But now there is the pressure of her show—an artist has submitted a potentially controversial piece that might offend the corporate sponsors—as well as the question of her painting. Can she have it all, or must Ed be sacrificed for art? Her old animal pals aren't any help either, it seems, so when the remarkably sensitive, tolerant, and generally wonderful Ed tells her that he understands exactly, Jana realizes ``anything's possible'' and ``change was nothing to be afraid of.'' Jana's fears and difficulties are vividly and sympathetically described, but her relentless self-absorption—along with the thinness of the other characters—minimizes the impact of her coming-of-age. More sketch than portrait.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-918273-87-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Coffee House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1991

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

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CIRCE

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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This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

THINGS FALL APART

Written with quiet dignity that builds to a climax of tragic force, this book about the dissolution of an African tribe, its traditions, and values, represents a welcome departure from the familiar "Me, white brother" genre.

Written by a Nigerian African trained in missionary schools, this novel tells quietly the story of a brave man, Okonkwo, whose life has absolute validity in terms of his culture, and who exercises his prerogative as a warrior, father, and husband with unflinching single mindedness. But into the complex Nigerian village filters the teachings of strangers, teachings so alien to the tribe, that resistance is impossible. One must distinguish a force to be able to oppose it, and to most, the talk of Christian salvation is no more than the babbling of incoherent children. Still, with his guns and persistence, the white man, amoeba-like, gradually absorbs the native culture and in despair, Okonkwo, unable to withstand the corrosion of what he, alone, understands to be the life force of his people, hangs himself. In the formlessness of the dying culture, it is the missionary who takes note of the event, reminding himself to give Okonkwo's gesture a line or two in his work, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1958

ISBN: 0385474547

Page Count: 207

Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1958

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