A confident, if occasionally exhausting, familial and historical epic, coupled with a tender bildungsroman.

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HIS GRANDFATHER'S HOUSE

Fritsch (Elizabeth Daleiden on Trial, 2016, etc.) unfurls a tortured familial epic set in an Illinois farming community.

Henry, the titular grandfather and patriarch of the Reinhart family, has a long, infamous history in the rural farming community where his father settled in the previous century. Henry’s brazen, lifelong ambition to take over every farm on the section of land where he was born, and to “never again have to share a fence with another human being,” makes members of the community—and his own family—suspect him of many crimes, including the murder of his own brother. His steadfast refusal to attend the local church and his continued acquisition of his neighbors’ farms by various, sometimes-dubious means doesn’t help his case. By the time he comes to care for his only grandson, Kurt Reinhart, in one of the houses on his land in 1947, he and his clan are seen as pariahs. Kurt lives and works alongside his stubborn but surprisingly open-minded grandfather; later, he investigates the violent rumors about his birthright while also coming to terms with his own homosexuality and the sexual repression in his family. Fritsch will still maintain readers’ interest with his sheer storytelling verve, as he brings vivid specificity to his fully imagined world. His folksy, easygoing style belies the painful secrets and violence at the heart of the novel and renders the bloodstained and tragic narrative much lighter and easier to read than it has any right to be. However, the ambitious tale occasionally gets muddled amid the minutiae of Reinhart family’s history and an exhausting cavalcade of thinly drawn secondary characters. The dialogue is also often tin-eared and exposition-heavy, and none of the characters speaks in a way that’s dissimilar to the narrator.

A confident, if occasionally exhausting, familial and historical epic, coupled with a tender bildungsroman.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9978829-3-3

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Asymmetric Worlds

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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