An unconventional but effective take on the legacy of Nazism.


A reissue of a 1986 novel by Waldrop—an acclaimed experimental poet who was born in Germany in 1935 before immigrating to the U.S. in the '50s—which carefully braids a family’s decline with the rise of Nazi Germany.

Lucy, the narrator of this haunting, distinctive novel, is writing to her sister—or perhaps half sister—Andrea with family history much on her mind. Their mother, Frederika, married Josef, a teacher and World War I veteran, in Germany in 1926, but within months she was pursuing an affair with Franz, leaving the identity of the younger girl’s father uncertain. Beyond complicating the family tree, the infidelity has messed with everybody’s psyches, or at least that’s Lucy’s assertion. Andrea retreated into a convent; her twin sister, Doria, escaped to start her own family, and Lucy feels she’s inherited mom’s penchant for affairs. Lucy is trying to pinpoint the root of this dysfunction: The novel’s convoluted title refers to a dropped handkerchief that landed in Kitzingen, her family’s hometown, a symbol of the impact of a single arbitrary event. The sense of arbitrariness and dysfunction is mirrored in Lucy's recollection of German history. If Frederika had put her foot down more about listening to Wagner, might things have been different? Did the fact that Franz is a Jew further stoke Josef’s enchantment with Nazism? “Can I possibly isolate any one particular event as the cause of other particular events?” she writes. “Construct a different family myth out of one little sentence?” Lucy presents a cool intellectual facade, but the novel is littered with spikes that suggest an inner fury—most clearly in the all-caps section headings: “AM I TAKING MOTHER’S SIDE?”; “LATER, YOU GO INTO CONVULSIONS”; “DO YOU NEED ME TO REMIND YOU THAT THE NAZIS GAINED VOTES?” As the political betrayals in Josef’s world intensify, she creates a crushing sense of Lucy’s feeling burdened by family and country alike.

An unconventional but effective take on the legacy of Nazism.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-948980-01-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Dorothy

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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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