Darkly hilarious and weirdly beguiling.

THE ANNIE YEAR

Tandy Caide, a dedicated CPA in small-town America, can handle the complexities of everyone’s tax returns. But can she handle an affair with the new vocational agriculture teacher?

Ash’s debut novel brilliantly captures the slanted quirkiness of a Midwest full of small-business owners and exploding home-methamphetamine labs. For the last 25 years, Tandy has striven to live a life of integrity, always conscious of her role in the economic stability of the town. She has quarterly lunches with the Order of the Pessimists, a sodality helmed by her late father’s grumpy friends Doc and Huff, who lovingly criticize her like a daughter. Partly that’s because Huff practically disowned his own daughter, Barb, when she ran off just before high school graduation and came back pregnant. As a waitress, she’s raised Hope alone. She did pretty well until the night of this year's high school musical, Annie, when a rather inebriated Hope played a rather violent Ms. Hannigan. No longer welcome in the regular high school, Hope joins the Vo-Ag class. The night of the musical was also the night Tandy met the Vo-Ag teacher, occasionally known by his given name of Kenny Tischer. Soon Tandy and the strange Vo-Ag teacher, who wears not only a ponytail, but also wool man clogs, have embarked on a passionate romance. Meanwhile, Tandy’s obese husband, Gerald, checks himself into a mental health facility, and Hope seems to have picked up a shady job with a shady farmhand. With staccato phrasing and acerbic observations about the mundane foolishness of everyone’s lives, Ash keenly captures Tandy’s dry wit. Tandy doesn’t simply work as a CPA; she possesses an accountant’s soul, as hilariously evinced by her tallying the costs and benefits of waving to her clients and chaperoning the Vo-Ag students.

Darkly hilarious and weirdly beguiling.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-939419-96-5

Page Count: 246

Publisher: Unnamed Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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