Smart, edgy, well written: an impressive first.


A confident and powerfully voiced first novel in which a couple—damaged, haunted and desperate—find redemption.

Having both just arrived at the airport in the Dominican Republic, Tollomi rescues Michelle from a customs nightmare. After this meeting, the two are inseparable, becoming more than friends and less than confidantes, sharing an enigmatic bond they’re afraid to speak of. Young and seemingly independent, Michelle has been traveling aimlessly, escaping something (even she’s not sure what—she suffers an amnesia that has erased chunks of her past and bits of her present), landing in the Dominican Republic to claim the house her grandparents bought in the ’40s on a whim. Tollomi, West Indies–born, American educated, travels the world helping the dispossessed, barely acknowledging his own exile from the island of his birth. To others, the pair seems charming and bright, but they can see each other for what they are—Tollomi being beckoned by mermaids to drown, Michelle followed by the ghost of her grandfather. She finds a job at an American bar and begins rebuilding her house, while Tollomi searches for the remains of a revolutionary movement that seems to have died with the assassination of its leader. He meets Carlitos, a young man selling sodas on the beach, and the two begin a doomed affair in the midst of burning gringo hotels and a fixed presidential election. As Michelle’s house nears completion, she becomes increasingly disturbed. Though suspecting the truth about her memory loss, Tollomi is too consumed with Carlitos (who may have ties to the torched hotels) to help her. The narrative is remarkably assured in weaving the futility of the revolutionary arsonists’ deeds (none of the hotels are really damaged, being made of cinderblock) with the futility of Michelle and Tollomi’s continuing to believe nothing is wrong with the other. A dramatic conclusion brings the chance of new life for both.

Smart, edgy, well written: an impressive first.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-55583-644-5

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Alyson

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2002

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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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