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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IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK

This new Baldwin novel is told by a 19-year-old black girl named Tish in a New York City ghetto about how she fell in love with a young black man, Fonny. He got framed on a rape charge and she got pregnant before they could marry and move into their loft; but Tish and her family Finance a trip to Puerto Rico to track down the rape victim and rescue Fonny, a sculptor with slanted eyes and treasured independence. The book is anomalous for the 1970's with its Raisin in the Sun wholesomeness. It is sometimes saccharine, but it possesses a genuinely sweet and free spirit too. Along with the reflex sprinkles of hate-whitey, there are powerful showdowns between the two black families, and a Frieze of people who — unlike Fonny's father — gave up and "congregated on the garbage heaps of their lives." The style wobbles as Tish mixes street talk with lyricism and polemic and a bogus kind of Young Adult hesitancy. Baldwin slips past the conflict between fighting the garbage heap and settling into a long-gone private chianti-chisel-and-garret idyll, as do Fonny and Tish and the baby. But Baldwin makes the affirmation of the humanity of black people which is all too missing in various kinds of Superfly and sub-fly novels.

Pub Date: May 24, 1974

ISBN: 0307275930

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1974

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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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