A captivating survival story alternates with a less satisfying look at a midlife crisis in this promising first novel.



A bitterly unhappy forest ranger finds a purpose in her search for an old woman who might have survived disaster in this darkly humorous debut novel.

In 1986, a small plane crashes on a blue-sky day into a peak in the Bitterroot National Forest, a 1.6-million-acre wilderness straddling Montana and Idaho. The only survivor is 72-year-old Cloris Waldrip, who's on vacation with her husband of 54 years. Alone and traumatized, she’s determined to make her way home to Texas. At the start she’s a nice Methodist lady who pulls up her stockings and retrieves her handbag from the wreckage before setting off down the mountain, but her civilized layers will be peeled away by weeks, then months of harsh conditions and loneliness. Bitterroot forest ranger Debra Lewis is recently divorced (after finding out her husband had two other wives—“He’s in prison for trigamy”) and hell-bent on drinking herself to death. But finding Cloris, who she believes survived the crash, becomes her mission. Through it she meets a widowed search-and-rescue specialist named Steven Bloor and his sullen teenage daughter, Jill. Chapters recounting Cloris’ struggle to survive alternate with those describing Lewis’ search and her entanglement with the Bloors. Cloris’ chapters are by turns thrilling, poignant, and hilarious, carried along by her irresistible first-person narration. She is so matter-of-fact, wry, and indomitable it’s not hard to imagine she’s a granddaughter of True Grit’s Mattie Ross. Lewis’ part of the story is less engaging, in part because its third-person narration lacks Cloris’ winning voice. Lewis’ work life is oddly more outlandish than Cloris’ wilderness journey; so many wacky colleagues and eccentric locals jostle for space with the weird Bloor family that the Fargo-esque humor can seem strained. And Lewis’ alcoholism is so prodigious that, after she’s guzzled six or seven bottles of wine in one day, it’s hard to credit her staying conscious, much less driving mountain roads. But both she and Cloris find paths to self-discovery, and eventually some will be saved.

A captivating survival story alternates with a less satisfying look at a midlife crisis in this promising first novel.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-42010-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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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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A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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