Taylor gives her narrator a singular voice and dares the world to listen.


This story, told by the younger half of a runaway mother-and-child duo, provides an enigmatic narrator with an opportunity to challenge readers’ assumptions about family, gender, and home.

Taylor’s (The Shore, 2015) storyteller, the androgynous Alex, recounts (from a future vantage point) the sequence of unsettling events they encountered while roaming the country with “Ma,” their mother. Ma and the barely pubescent Alex abruptly depart their stifling home, leaving Alex’s elusive father behind, and spend the next few years living a hand-to-mouth existence on the road, following an itinerary Ma has charted on a mysteriously annotated map. As they crisscross the country, Ma settles scores, pays debts, and pays it forward while Alex deals with the effects of deracination and gender fluidity. Ma’s quest, focused on reconnecting with a series of women friends—the “Lauras”—from her hardscrabble youth, provides both mother and child with myriad opportunities for self-revelation. Taylor’s quiet, precise prose creates a sense of dreary place after place on the pair’s odyssey and never conveys a clue about Alex’s anatomy. Rather than serving as a parlor trick, Alex’s androgyny works as a reminder about preconceived notions of identity and offers readers a narrative stripped of gender-specific conventions; Alex’s ambiguous, aching forays into the realms of sexuality and human relations speak to universal truths about trust as well as lust. The realities of living life with a serial bolter reveal to Alex the myriad ways in which a home can be assembled and reassembled over time as Taylor propels the duo past external and internal mile markers. Some stops on the journey may seem superfluous or less important than others that are more finely drawn. Taylor, however, never allows her travelers to veer too far from the path they need to follow.

Taylor gives her narrator a singular voice and dares the world to listen.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-451-49685-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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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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