THE VISITATION

Coming from New Zealand with a detour through England, a wickedly funny, laugh-out-loud first novel from Reidy (stories: Modettes, not reviewed) about two young sisters struggling against the strictures of Catholicism. Nothing ever happened in Chatterton, New Zealand, in the late 1960s—at least so Theresa and Catherine Flynn believed before they spotted the Virgin Mary hovering above their backyard lemon tree. Weary veterans of endless rounds of the game ``Martyrs and Suffering Virgins,'' in which players eagerly reenact the whipping and torturing of their favorite female saints, the prepubescent sisters still find themselves unprepared for the sight of the Virgin herself. All Mary wants them to do, it turns out, is deliver a sealed, handwritten message to the Pope. Awestruck, the two obediently pass the Virgin's letter on to their mother—who promptly turns it over to her sternly devout husband—who self- righteously opens and reads it before passing it on to the local priest. Disagreeing with the letter's content (the Virgin wants the Pope to acknowledge the importance of contraception), Terrence Flynn alters the message to conform with his own and the Church's misogynistic doctrines. The result, as this wacky family history would have it, is Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae forbidding the use of the Pill—an edict that forces Mary to reappear on Earth (with the girls as her witness) to initiate a movement intent on helping women control their own procreative destinies. Meanwhile, Theresa and Catherine go about their own very mortal lives—experimenting with sex, falling in love with a long-haired cousin, a doctor's son, a best girlfriend, and whatever other target wanders into their paths—while struggling to ``be good,'' whatever that means, in the face of their father's violent temper, their mother's depression, the local monsignor's failure to guide them, and the utter chaos of life in a houseful of Flynns. An offbeat, surprisingly entertaining look at Catholic girlhood, by a writer with a predator's eye for comic detail.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 1997

ISBN: 0-684-83954-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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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