An expertly motivated debut that moves briskly and doesn’t lose sight of its affecting purpose.


A superbly convincing first novel about a family man driven, through personal and professional crises, to drift from home.

Robert Elgin believes he is a dead man and needs a new identity. In his late 30s, a labor negotiator for Oakland County, Michigan, with wife Laura and their two small children, he has allowed himself to get involved with the Republican Party, taking kickbacks from the unions in order to help county executive Donald McCabe get well situated to run for governor. At the same time that the politics grow dirtier, the couple’s five-year-old daughter Carrie is sexually abused by a twelve-year-old neighbor, and Robert and Laura begin a grueling, alienating ordeal of court hearings and therapy. The tale moves back in time, starting with Robert’s actual death in New York City months later when he’s struck by a bus while running after a young woman, Carla, whom he’s hired as an escort and fallen desperately in love with. Before that, he will have secured a new Social Security card and driver’s license, using the half-million dollars he emptied from a Barbados bank account once he unlocked the political union scam. The shady organizers behind the money-skimming will certainly be after him, and Robert has fled his home and former life, only to return days before his death to say goodbye forever to Laura, who, in turn, has been advised by her therapists and church advisors to push Robert out of the way in order to save their daughter. Most compelling for readers is Robert’s life on the lam, when he meets the savvy graduate student, Stacey, a.k.a. Carla, who plays dominatrix for her rent money. Robert and Carla are both re-creating themselves, finding new identities, and in dire need of companionship; but their cautious, growing love is a poignantly doomed fantasy in Ligon’s energetically suspenseful amalgamation of the shards of Robert’s ruined life.

An expertly motivated debut that moves briskly and doesn’t lose sight of its affecting purpose.

Pub Date: April 4, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-009910-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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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