A slyly subversive and nimble exploration of identity and love.

THE PROSTITUTES OF LAKE WIISHKOBAN

A young woman embarks on an odyssey of self-discovery when she takes a job at a library that offers a unique service.

Alexis Tove, a quiet, reserved woman in Monroe, North Dakota, lives with her parents and works at the local library. Although her family hopes that she will marry and start a family, she longs to escape the confines of her small town, and one evening, she decides to pack up, get behind the wheel of her car, and leave for good. After she arrives in the town of Lake Wiishkoban, Minnesota, she notices a sign offering an apartment for rent. On impulse, she rents it and settles into a new life on her own. After losing a series of dead-end jobs, including a position as a vacuum-cleaner salesperson, she becomes desperate for work. Then she notices a help-wanted ad for a librarian position. With her past library experience, the job sounds ideal—until she learns the Lake Wiishkoban library is also a brothel and that the librarians there double as sex workers. However, despite her initial hesitation, she decides to accept the position, and she soon discovers a world that she never knew existed. As Alexis gains confidence working with her clients, she begins exploring her own sexuality and her new friendship with co-worker Vanessa, which soon turns romantic. Alexis comes to believe that she may have finally found love and acceptance, until a crisis threatens to expose the library’s secret. Shannon’s (50 Critical Thinking Exercises for Humanities Classes 2, 2018, etc.) fiction debut is an entertaining, provocative bildungsroman that successfully turns an unconventional premise into a thoughtful exploration of freedom and identity. Alexis is a dynamic protagonist whose quest to find herself drives the narrative. When she’s introduced, she’s a shy and introspective bookworm who has a propensity for going along with things because she doesn’t want to disappoint anybody. For example, she was initially only planning to look at the apartment in Lake Wiishkoban, but she ends up renting it because the landlady was helpful to her; Alexis feels like she would “have that on my conscience” if she didn’t rent the place. Once she begins sex work, however, she’s forced to question her passivity. The author establishes this transition in a particularly powerful scene in which Alexis practices bondage techniques with Vanessa: “why bother fighting it?” Alexis’ discovery that she’s a lesbian unfolds at a thoughtful, methodical pace as her feelings for Vanessa go beyond mere friendship. Shannon’s supporting characters are also well-drawn—especially Vanessa, a librarian and aspiring fashion designer who feels conflicted about sex work, and Chet, who believes that he’s a bunny trapped in the body of a man. The sex scenes, while explicit, never seem gratuitous and are often about self-discovery. That said, there are some elements of the story that are slightly underdeveloped; for example, a woman named Greta Best first organizes the brothel, but her motivations remain somewhat mysterious.

A slyly subversive and nimble exploration of identity and love.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5202-5802-7

Page Count: 340

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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