Ruiz, a practicing California DA, creates a warts-and-all protagonist for his third outing (Giuseppe Rocco, 1998, etc.): you...

THE BIG BEAR

A notably different courtroom drama in which a young Mexican-American battles overwhelming odds to become a lawyer, then a good lawyer, and finally—sadly enough—a successful one.

Gabriel Garcia hated the San Joaquin Valley grape farm where he was born and raised, hated everything about it, including the fact of his Mexican-American heritage, which he construed to mean he was second-rate. First-rate was white: rich, powerful, and privileged. Gabby’s abiding fear was that he might get trapped, sucked into a vortex of demoralizing poverty and despair, and he vowed resistance. Driving himself relentlessly, he finished college and law school—taking eleven years to do it—and spent the next five building a practice, his clients drawn exclusively from the hardscrabble villages around San Jose. And now, though he works far too much—routinely twelve hours a day, six days a week—he feels good about himself. He’s helping people, his people, and becoming proficient at it. Suddenly, however, life takes an unexpected turn. He falls in love with Rebecca Williams, a beautiful, upper-class white woman, and, to his enormous surprise, she reciprocates. They marry, but it doesn’t go well—Gabby’s insecurities and unwarranted jealousy at fault. For him, separation results in corroding anger, and its effect is to shift the thrust of his ambition from selfless to selfish. He takes a case he knows he shouldn’t, a white man’s case, and he takes it because he yearns for a success that will somehow punish Rebecca. It’s a high-profile affair: a prominent doctor is accused of murdering his wife. As Gabby fights it he also fights himself, suffering immeasurably throughout, and in the process learns bitter lessons only peripherally connected with the verdict.

Ruiz, a practicing California DA, creates a warts-and-all protagonist for his third outing (Giuseppe Rocco, 1998, etc.): you may not always like Gabby, but you'll probably find yourself rooting for him.

Pub Date: March 31, 2003

ISBN: 1-55885-393-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Arte Público

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2003

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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