A playfully surreal but enthralling story of society’s castoffs.


In Poe’s (The Long Forgetting, 2016, etc.) dramatic novel, a drifter and a wayward teenager find common ground at a boardinghouse for people with disabilities.

Truman Birdsong has been moving from job to job, tarred by an ex-wife’s false accusation of child molestation. After the Weeks brothers, who own a local plant, renege on a promise of employment, Truman gets an offer from Parfit, an enigmatic older man, who says that Mercer, the owner of a boardinghouse for the disabled, is in need of a hired hand. The few who reside at the boardinghouse include Julius Rose, whose curved spine gives him a perpetual hunch, and Aiden Burns, who’s been blind since the age of 10. Parfit also brings in 13-year-old Nicolai Tate, whose mentally ill mother is in the hospital and whose father is in jail. Both Truman and Julius are wary of having the boy at the boardinghouse, particularly as he’s clearly avoiding a probation officer. But the real threat comes from the locals, who treat the boarders as pariahs and may have formed their own militia group. It turns out that the Weeks brothers have a cache of weapons to arm such a group—and may also have eyes on the boardinghouse’s land. Parfit makes a cryptic prediction, implying that Nicolai is in danger. Although Poe touches on serious, real-world subjects, such as violent “antigovernment types,” the story also has an otherworldly overtone. Parfit, for instance, seems to have unexplained abilities—at one point suddenly appearing just when Truman and Nicolai need help. Aiden’s odd, verbose speech is an endearing quirk: “You need a moment to think…a moment and no more, no, not a bit,” he tells Julius. There’s a clearly developed theme of fatherhood throughout; Truman, like Nicolai, has an estranged dad, and it’s hard not to see Truman becoming a paternal figure to the teen. The romance between Truman and Kennis McDuff, Nicolai’s probation officer, is also welcome, although that relationship pales in comparison to the bond between the boardinghouse denizens.

A playfully surreal but enthralling story of society’s castoffs.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9905845-2-0

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Rippo Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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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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