An intermittently moving debut that tries too hard to be literary. Nonetheless, D'Erasmo is a writer to watch.

READ REVIEW

TEA

An evocative yet somewhat contrived first novel about a young suburban woman dealing with her mother’s suicide and her own lesbianism.

Isabel Gold is a typical '70s suburban teenager: hung up on Joni Mitchell, smoking dope, and desperately trying to escape her middle-classness. As the story opens, Isabel and her mother are inspecting houses in the Philadelphia area; it’s clear that the mother, Cassie, is a bit what they used to call “high strung,” and it will soon be revealed that this is the last house in which she'll live before committing suicide. But while her mother’s demise is at the center of Isabel’s psyche forever more, D'Erasmo doesn't dwell on the circumstances; instead, as in life, Isabel goes on—in this case, to apprentice herself to a theater group, fall in love with a woman, and move to New York City to become a filmmaker. Inevitably, she fears that her lover will leave her; and, just as inevitably, the lover does. Divided into three sections preciously titled "Morning," "Afternoon," and "Evening," D'Erasmo’s narrative has an almost too-perfect arc; her depiction of lesbian life feels pat, familiar, and far too politically correct. That said, D'Erasmo’s strength is her pitch-perfect ear and eye for the era of Isabel’s adolescence: chairs are covered in Indian print bedspreads, people sit in La-Z-Boy recliners watching Carly Simon and James Taylor on TV; radios blast the song “Philadelphia Freedom.” The imagery is equally compelling: two chairs “leaned against the wall like poor people with nothing to do”; a stain “was in the shape of Texas, more or less.”

An intermittently moving debut that tries too hard to be literary. Nonetheless, D'Erasmo is a writer to watch.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2000

ISBN: 1-56512-243-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2000

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

Did you like this book?

more