A feast for mind and heart.


Second-novelist Ozeki (My Year of Meats, 1998) shifts her focus to potatoes in this full-course meal of a story about family farmers, environmental activists, and corporate agribusinessmen whose interests collide on a farm in Liberty Falls, Idaho.

Retired potato farmer and semi-invalid Lloyd Fuller and his Japanese wife Momo, who suffers from advancing Alzheimer’s, have sold most of their acreage to their daughter Yumi’s childhood friend Cass and her husband, but they still run a small catalogue seed company out of Momo’s garden. No one has seen Yumi since she ran away at 14 after Lloyd found out about her “affair” with history teacher Elliot Rhodes, but when Lloyd suffers a heart attack, Cass tracks her down. Yumi, now a part-time college teacher and real-estate developer in Hawaii, arrives at the farm with her three children (from three fathers) so full of unresolved angst that she barely registers the emotional crisis quietly brewing within Cass over her childlessness and a recent bout of cancer. Soon the Seeds of Resistance, a troop of eco-activists, show up and proclaim Lloyd, whose Christian fundamentalist beliefs about life’s sacred nature mesh with their own New Age-y ones, their new guru. Yumi finds herself the outsider as the Seeds care for her ailing father, charm her kids, and help Momo catalogue her seeds before memory fades completely. Meanwhile, Elliot, now a p.r. flack for an agribusiness, is sent to Idaho to push one of its products that the Seeds happen to be protesting. Yumi and Elliot reconnect, though this time it’s Elliot who is smitten. Lloyd’s health deteriorates, the Seeds plan a major action, and Elliot’s agribusiness operatives run amok. Liberty Falls becomes the intersection of intense personal drama—romantic and familial—and intense eco-political (both economic and ecological) theatrics. Add a thorough history of American potato farming and a huge cast of characters, most fully realized and heart-wrenching in their imperfect yearnings.

A feast for mind and heart.

Pub Date: March 10, 2003

ISBN: 0-670-03091-0

Page Count: 417

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

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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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