“The poetry was in the climbing,” Froderberg writes, but the drama here is in the muddle humans make of their lives.



Froderberg (Old Border Road, 2010) lays on the spiritual symbolism in this novel set on a fictional mountain in India named for an actual Hindu goddess of knowledge, learning, art, and music.

Sarasvati Troy’s namesake mountain was first scaled the day of her birth in 1956. As Sara’s 25th birthday approaches in 1980, she and her father, a mountain-climbing philosophy professor, set out to scale Sarasvati with a hand-picked company of climbers: Professor Troy’s friend Dr. Arun Reddy and his son, Devin; Virgil Adams, who reached the summit during the 1956 expedition, and his wife, Hillary (a name with its own climbing associations); driven climber Wilder Carson and his wife, Vida, who teaches yoga. Also along, at least in spirit, is Sara’s mother, who died in a climbing accident when Sara was 7 but has remained a guiding presence in her daughter's life. Scaling Sarasvati demands grueling, sometimes literally impossible expenditures of spiritual and physical resources. Readers are drawn into the pain, danger, and mental exhaustion the characters face, but despite (or perhaps due to a surfeit of) lyrical prose, readers may also share the boredom—as similar scenarios are repeated, even the danger of avalanches becomes less compelling. So does Sara’s unearthly goodness despite her predictable romance with sensitive Devin. Fortunately, the other climbers are less perfect and therefore more interesting. When Hillary is injured and goes home before reaching base camp, Adams’ longing for her and their domestic comfort overwhelms his drive to climb. Long-time philanderer Reddy had a brief affair with Vida before his wife’s death, and sparks still fly between them despite Vida’s hope that Sarasvati will reignite her marriage with her seemingly oblivious husband. Coming across as a macho jerk, Wilder is secretly tortured by grief and guilt over the climbing accident that killed his twin brother.

“The poetry was in the climbing,” Froderberg writes, but the drama here is in the muddle humans make of their lives.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-21768-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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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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With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

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This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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