A moving and original meditation on freedom, fate, and women's rage.


A young woman undermines the state-controlled system that determines motherhood to near-disastrous effect in this chilling follow-up to The Water Cure.

In early puberty, Calla's father takes her to a lottery station, where she chooses a blue ticket from a mysterious machine. Once her fate is determined, Calla must make her way to a city, alone and on foot. If she manages to avoid the roving packs of boys and men who prowl the woods and roadways, Calla will start her adult life as a "blue ticket." In the city, Calla is outfitted with a copper IUD and expected to contribute to society solely through her position as a chemist in a laboratory. "Blue ticket: I was not motherly," Calla thinks. "It had been judged that it wasn't for me by someone who knew better than I did." Her days are filled with work and visits to the combative Doctor A, who monitors blue tickets like Calla. Her evenings are filled with drinking and casual sex. Soon, however, Calla can't resist the pull of the "new and dark feeling" inside her, a "strange, ravaging ghost." Coveting the forbidden lives of the few women who bear white tickets, she removes the IUD on her own using tweezers and enough booze to numb the blinding pain. When Doctor A discovers Calla’s inevitable pregnancy, she's cast out of her house and once again left to fend for herself. Mackintosh renders Calla's internal struggle with deft, lyric precision. What is it about Calla the state determined unmotherly? How will she care for a child without the protection of a family or community? Can she trust the other women she meets on the road, who have also decided to take their fates into their own hands? Like Sarah Hall in Daughters of the North or Leni Zumas in Red Clocks, Mackintosh brings a new sense of pathos to the dystopian novel. Late in the book, Mackintosh reveals that Calla, like other women in her country, has little to no medical knowledge about her own body, especially when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth. They're shocked to learn about the placenta, for example, and have no instinct for how to hold a baby. This detail transforms Calla's haunting quest to become a mother into a heartbreaking bid for self-determination, self-worth, and self-knowledge—no matter the cost.

A moving and original meditation on freedom, fate, and women's rage.

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54563-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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Sure to enchant even those who have never played a video game in their lives, with instant cult status for those who have.

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The adventures of a trio of genius kids united by their love of gaming and each other.

When Sam Masur recognizes Sadie Green in a crowded Boston subway station, midway through their college careers at Harvard and MIT, he shouts, “SADIE MIRANDA GREEN. YOU HAVE DIED OF DYSENTERY!” This is a reference to the hundreds of hours—609 to be exact—the two spent playing “Oregon Trail” and other games when they met in the children’s ward of a hospital where Sam was slowly and incompletely recovering from a traumatic injury and where Sadie was secretly racking up community service hours by spending time with him, a fact which caused the rift that has separated them until now. They determine that they both still game, and before long they’re spending the summer writing a soon-to-be-famous game together in the apartment that belongs to Sam's roommate, the gorgeous, wealthy acting student Marx Watanabe. Marx becomes the third corner of their triangle, and decades of action ensue, much of it set in Los Angeles, some in the virtual realm, all of it riveting. A lifelong gamer herself, Zevin has written the book she was born to write, a love letter to every aspect of gaming. For example, here’s the passage introducing the professor Sadie is sleeping with and his graphic engine, both of which play a continuing role in the story: “The seminar was led by twenty-eight-year-old Dov Mizrah....It was said of Dov that he was like the two Johns (Carmack, Romero), the American boy geniuses who'd programmed and designed Commander Keen and Doom, rolled into one. Dov was famous for his mane of dark, curly hair, wearing tight leather pants to gaming conventions, and yes, a game called Dead Sea, an underwater zombie adventure, originally for PC, for which he had invented a groundbreaking graphics engine, Ulysses, to render photorealistic light and shadow in water.” Readers who recognize the references will enjoy them, and those who don't can look them up and/or simply absorb them. Zevin’s delight in her characters, their qualities, and their projects sprinkles a layer of fairy dust over the whole enterprise.

Sure to enchant even those who have never played a video game in their lives, with instant cult status for those who have.

Pub Date: July 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-32120-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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