Compelling and well-researched, yet not quite relatable.

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LETTERS TO CEPHAS: BOOK ONE

THE TRAVELS OF THOMAS THE APOSTLE TO THE MALABAR COAST OF SOUTH INDIA

A fictionalized account of the Apostle Thomas’ travels following Jesus’ Crucifixion.

Villoth’s book, the first in a series, begins with the death of Thomas (here called “Thoma”) before flashing back to the Crucifixion of Christ (here called “Yeshua”) and Thoma’s subsequent journeys to preach the Gospel. An editor’s note reveals that the story has been reconstructed from scrolls found in the writer’s “ancestral house”: letters from Thomas to the Apostle Peter, called “Cephas” in the text. The use of Hebrew names for the characters can be confusing for readers trying to link the Hebrew names to their better-known biblical counterparts, but this choice lends authenticity to the story and helps maintain Villoth’s rich mood. The prose is voluptuous and imaginative, with sentences that twist and turn around the sights and smells of the ancient world as Thoma makes his way from Jerusalem to India: e.g., “…the tapestry of busy-ness being woven together by every living strand of muscle and sinew that was Damascus.” Plot-wise, the nature of Thoma’s relationship with his brother Yeshua is hinted at, though it never becomes abundantly clear. At one point, Thoma writes, “Yeshua betrayed us!...He who could mend bones, bestow sight, exorcise demons, he could not do that for us, at Golgotha?”; ultimately, though, readers never get a clear sense of Thoma’s emotional arc. The plot meanders somewhat, sometimes getting lost in the details, though it maintains a line of ancient mysticism that unifies Thoma’s experiences, including his encountering people of various faiths and discovering the ways early Christianity intersects. Clearly well-versed in the religious and political dimensions of the time, Villoth brings new insight into biblical territory, but these details can get in the way of plot and character development, which may turn off readers looking for a good story rather than a fictional take on biblical times.

Compelling and well-researched, yet not quite relatable.

Pub Date: May 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1499203462

Page Count: 324

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 5, 2014

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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