Tackles but ultimately oversimplifies thorny issues.

THE HUMMINGBIRD

A hospice nurse, baffled by her husband’s drastic personality change after his third deployment to Iraq, gleans valuable lessons from a dying World War II historian.

Deborah Birch, who has found her calling caring for dying patients in Portland, Oregon, is the only attendant retired professor Barclay Reed has not yet fired. She wins him over by showing an interest in his life’s work, an unpublished treatise about the only Axis bombing to take place on American soil—in Oregon, when Ichiro Soga, a Japanese pilot, took off from a submarine in a light plane, bent on firebombing the state’s famed virgin timber. Chapters from the treatise are interspersed throughout as Deb reads them to Barclay. Afflicted with terminal kidney cancer, Barclay also suffers from the blows life has dealt: his isolation from family and friends after his academic career ended due to a false accusation of plagiarism. Deb has another troubled soul to deal with at home, her husband, Michael, a Guardsman who survived his first two tours of duty in Iraq comparatively unscathed. After the third, however, he returned exhibiting full-blown post-traumatic stress disorder and has grown cold toward his wife and dangerously irascible. A skilled driver and car buff who works as a mechanic, he's now without wheels thanks to a road rage incident—police impounded his car after he pursued and rammed another driver for parking in a handicapped space. When Deb confides in Barclay, he tells her the key to unpacking the puzzle of Michael’s trauma may lie in studying the code of a warrior. The story of Soga, a descendant of samurais, and his atonement for the bombing is the key to that understanding. The sections concerning Soga and his odd rapprochement with the Oregon town he attacked are often more engaging than the plights of the contemporary characters. Kiernan (The Curiosity, 2013) seeds this saga with occasional sanctimony, bald symbolism, and overly facile epiphanies.

Tackles but ultimately oversimplifies thorny issues.

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-236954-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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Relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely: just the thing for Dick Cheney’s bedside reading wherever he’s keeping...

WITHOUT FAIL

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 6

When the newly elected Vice President’s life is threatened, the Secret Service runs to nomadic soldier-of-fortune Jack Reacher (Echo Burning, 2001, etc.) in this razor-sharp update of The Day of the Jackal and In the Line of Fire that’s begging to be filmed.

Why Reacher? Because M.E. Froelich, head of the VP’s protection team, was once a colleague and lover of his late brother Joe, who’d impressed her with tales of Jack’s derring-do as an Army MP. Now Froelich and her Brooks Brothers–tailored boss Stuyvesant have been receiving a series of anonymous messages threatening the life of North Dakota Senator/Vice President–elect Brook Armstrong. Since the threats may be coming from within the Secret Service’s own ranks—if they aren’t, it’s hard to see how they’ve been getting delivered—they can’t afford an internal investigation. Hence the call to Reacher, who wastes no time in hooking up with his old friend Frances Neagley, another Army vet turned private eye, first to see whether he can figure out a way to assassinate Armstrong, then to head off whoever else is trying. It’s Reacher’s matter-of-fact gift to think of everything, from the most likely position a sniper would assume at Armstrong’s Thanksgiving visit to a homeless shelter to the telltale punctuation of one of the threats, and to pluck helpers from the tiny cast who can fill the remaining gaps because they aren’t idiots or stooges. And it’s Child’s gift to keep tightening the screws, even when nothing’s happening except the arrival of a series of unsigned letters, and to convey a sense of the blank impossibility of guarding any public figure from danger day after highly exposed day, and the dedication and heroism of the agents who take on this daunting job.

Relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely: just the thing for Dick Cheney’s bedside reading wherever he’s keeping himself these days.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14861-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2002

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