Inconsistent but with enough romance to satisfy many readers

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RUNNING FOR WATER AND SKY

A few anxious minutes feel like an eternity as 17-year-old Bless tries to reach her boyfriend after the sound of sirens makes her fear the worst.

As she runs, the white teen flashes back to the six months leading up to this day. After years in her grandparents’ abusive home in small-town Nebraska, Bless’ father, a down-at-the-heels mechanic named Shaky, shows up and takes Bless to live with his new family in Wisconsin. She takes nothing but a booklet of collectible pennies that her dying mother gave her. At her new school, she makes friends with Maylee and falls in love with Liam, a new student in town. A trip to a psychic convinces the girls that Liam’s life is in danger. Alternating time frames mask an unevenness in the depiction of two distinct parts of Bless’ life. Richly realized storytelling, setting, and detailed characters paint a vivid picture of Bless’ experiences in Nebraska. In contrast, her new life in Wisconsin not only seems disconnected from her early years, but revolves around several stereotyped characters and a thin, far-fetched storyline concerning the pennies and the psychic. Flash-forward to Bless frantically running, so distracted by her memories that she repeatedly steps into traffic, and the result is a sustained melodrama with no letdown from an intense plotline.

Inconsistent but with enough romance to satisfy many readers . (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-940716-93-0

Page Count: 282

Publisher: Spark Press

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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THE DRY DANUBE

A HITLER FORGERY

The protean West's 18th novel (and second to appear this spring, following his revisionist Old West tale OK, p. 267) forms an interesting complement to his earlier fictional study of the Nazi phenomenon and its mentality, The Very Rich Hours of Count von Stauffenberg (1980). Here, a `memoir` (the `author` of which is only gradually, glancingly revealed—as West's odd Afterword explains) describes the years (1907–14) when the young Adolf Hitler lived in Vienna as a hopeful art student. The specific subject is the importunate Adolf's courting of two older, established painters, Treischnitt and Kolberhoff, whose dismissive contempt for his productions (such as his `dry,` lifeless image of the Danube River) contributes significantly to the building resentment and that will later explode into military conquest and carnage. It's arguably reductive to thus pinpoint the source of Hitler's all-out assault on a European civilization that rejected his jejune contributions to it—but West's taut little immorality tale crackles with verbal energy, flexibility, and passion. One of his most fully realized fictions.

Pub Date: April 25, 2000

ISBN: 0-8112-1432-X

Page Count: 160

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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Marcom writes unflinchingly about grotesque violence and the gritty nastiness of bodily functions, but too often lapses into...

THREE APPLES FELL FROM HEAVEN

First novel by a northern California–based writer chronicles the terrible plight of Armenians, including her own family, during the genocide war carried out by the Turks during WWI.

Between 1915–16, about a million and a half Armenians were murdered by Turkish forces as part of a ruthless campaign of what today might be called “ethnic cleansing.” The first genocide of the 20th century, the killing of the Armenians is clearly an antecedent to both the Holocaust and the brutal doings in the former Yugoslavia, with particular resonance for students of the latter. Like the events in Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia, the events in Anatolia pitted people who had once been neighbors, customers, and friends against one another in ethnic violence with a religious underpinning. Surprisingly, there has been very little fiction written about this terrible historical event. Marcom’s is the rare exception, and at its best it captures with coruscating force the intimate nature of a genocide committed by the people who used to live next to you. She has chosen an unusual structure, a tapestry of many vignettes that depict a shattered Armenian culture and way of life through the memories of victims and bystanders, those who hid, those who died, and those who tried vainly to help. Woven into this complicated structure are some recurring characters, chief among them Anaguil, a young girl who has watched her father and other men jailed and tortured; Sargis, a young would-be writer who, disguised as a woman, lives in near-total darkness in an attic. Leslie Davis, the American consul who reports truthfully on what he has seen but who still emerges as a supercilious and oversexed fool.

Marcom writes unflinchingly about grotesque violence and the gritty nastiness of bodily functions, but too often lapses into a stilted diction that is more ponderous than exotic. Still, her story has a certain brutal force that stays in the memory.

Pub Date: April 23, 2001

ISBN: 1-57322-186-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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