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TUNNEL TO HELL

THE LAKE ERIE TUNNEL DISASTERS: TALES OF HEROISM AND TRAGEDY

Illuminates a neglected but relevant part of history and subtly draws parallels to today’s water infrastructure crises.

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In 1916 Cleveland, a risky tunnel construction project brings together a black inventor and laborers in this debut graphic novel.

Inventor Benjamin Beltran has just developed a helmet that allows people to breathe while surrounded by smoke, but no one will buy his product or let him run ads for it—because he’s black. Worse, the press won’t even cover his invention because, one journalist tells him, “our readers will never accept a negro as the ‘hero’ of a story.” Meanwhile, public outrage builds as a young boy contracts typhoid from the contaminated water piped in from Lake Erie. The mayor urges his waterworks chief to hasten the progress on the tunnel being dug under the lake in search of purer water. The laborers—Irish, German, and more—are given a few extra dollars to dig when the tunnels are filled with dangerous, combustible methane. One of these workers is Rodger Clarke, an Irishman who remembers clearly an incident 10 years ago when a crib, a construction structure in the lake, went up in flames, killing many of his friends in the tunnel and somehow sparing him. Then, one July night, history repeats itself: Clarke is in the tunnel when a deposit of methane is suddenly released, suffocating men and setting the crib aflame—and only Beltran, with his new invention, stands a chance of saving them. In a preface, MacGregor positions his timely historical novel about contaminated water as an ode to the common man and a meditation on the injustices of history (and an attempt to correct the record). Largely, he succeeds, with vivid characters; an engrossing, well-paced narrative; and a knack for evoking the racism and classism of the time. Dumm’s (co-illustrator: Masterful Marks: Cartoonists Who Changed the World, 2014) art tends toward the grotesque—the characters are all bulging eyes and thick lines, and it’s often difficult to tell who exactly is speaking because many of the players look similar. But scenes and landscapes are deftly rendered.” One of the narrative’s highlights is the earthy banter between the laborers that leavens the weighty topics in the book: When an unpopular character is pulled from the tunnel alive, there are boos and shouts of “throw ’im back!”

Illuminates a neglected but relevant part of history and subtly draws parallels to today’s water infrastructure crises.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61984-780-4

Page Count: 278

Publisher: EOI Media Press Inc.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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