A highly-nuanced, understated, and beautifully written debut.


Even the meek and mild can unwittingly cause long-lasting harm to the people they love.

Jay was 2 when his mother abandoned him and his dad, and it’s been many years since he probed the reasons for her disappearance. But now that he’s a father himself, he worries that he’ll be unable to love his daughter and sustain a relationship with his wife, Mimi. Will he, like his mom, be suffocated by domesticity? Will he be able to stifle the impulse to flee? On top of these concerns, Jay is in mourning. Shortly after Mimi gave birth, his beloved dad, Edison, suddenly died. Even more shocking, Edison left his Connecticut home to his ex-wife, Yuki, Jay’s estranged mom. Thanks to a quick internet search, Jay discovers that Yuki now lives in Berlin and has become a somewhat successful artist. Jay’s decision to pay her an unannounced visit—not only to have her sign the inheritance documents, but to get answers to questions he’s obsessed over since childhood—unleashes long-repressed anxieties. Not surprisingly, when the pair finally meets, the encounter is awkward and tense, at least initially. Before their paths cross, however, the novel takes readers back in time to reveal Yuki’s personal history. As you’d expect, it’s intricate, layered, and complex, filled with missed connections and disappointments. Readers learn, for example, that Yuki was the only Japanese-American student in her New York City class, and while the novel doesn’t directly address race, Yuki’s isolation, and the resultant insecurity and depression it caused, paints a vivid picture of an unmoored woman whose emotional disquiet led her to become both victim and victimizer.

A highly-nuanced, understated, and beautifully written debut.

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-324-00074-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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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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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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