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THE GRISLY WIFE

The last of Hall's three-volume imaginative history of Australia (Kisses of the Enemy, 1988; The Second Bridegroom, 1991)- -a riveting novel of miracles, murder, and prophecy in the remote Australian bush. When a policeman comes round to the old mission station asking questions about a brutal murder, aging Catherine Byrne at last has an audience—and an opportunity to tell the extraordinary story of her life. Daughter of an English clergyman, young Catherine loved cousin Dora; but when a neighbor introduced her to Muley Moloch, a charismatic preacher and illiterate bootmaker who'd taken over the name of a famous Irish apostate, she was overwhelmed by a ``miracle'' he performed (she saw Moloch briefly fly)—a miracle that led to marriage to Moloch and to their departure for Australia with a band of eight women disciples, the Household of Hidden Stars. Believing he had a gift from God, Moloch wanted to establish a community of women (``morals are the work of women'') to await the imminent Second Coming. In a stream of lyrical consciousness, Catherine recalls the long, dangerous voyage from England; her miraculous recovery from TB; Moloch's miraculous bringing back from the dead of drowned opera singer Louise; the fearful demons who inhabit the bush; the virgin birth of her son Immanuel; the petty jealousies that divided the disparate band of women; and the long- ago murder she thinks the policeman is inquiring about. It's a confession as much of spiritual failings as temporal ones, of loss of faith as well as of misdeeds. Above all, it is an opportunity to purge the past and soul: ``What else should I confess to you while I have the chance to influence the way you'll judge all this?'' Ever-fascinating mysteries of the human spirit—explored with a light but always sensitive touch in a luminous setting. And an absorbing read.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-374-16704-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1993

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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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