An undeniably audacious, if self-consciously Southwest Gothic debut that fans of Cormac McCarthy should adore.

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OLD BORDER ROAD

In Froderberg’s highly stylized, uniquely voiced first novel, a young bride’s growing disillusionment about her marriage coincides with the drought plaguing her Arizona community.

Seventeen-year-old Girl, whose briefly sketched, quickly forgotten parents have left her pretty much on her own, marries Son, the heir to a successful rancher, after a short, passionate courtship. Son’s mother and father, called Rose and Rose’s Daddy, are loving in-laws and their ranch was a paradise of fecundity in its time, as Rose’s Daddy explains in elaborate recitations. But a drought has set in, both physical and spiritual. Without water, the local economy is in a tailspin. The ranch sits above an aquifer, and in the past Rose’s Daddy has made a fortune selling off water. But now he is struggling. Son is soon leaving Girl to drink and entertain other women, in particular the daughter of his father’s longtime mistress Pearl. Deeply religious Rose withers away and dies, but not before she’s introduced Girl to Padre, a New Age minister. Son’s father sinks into a deep depression, ultimately committing suicide. Son’s mourning takes the form of profound anger and even wilder carousing. Girl seeks counsel from Padre, on whom she develops a profound and requited crush. She moves off the farm and stays briefly with Pearl’s father while Pearl and her mother are “north,” where Pearl is preparing to give birth, possibly to Son’s child, an irony since Girl has an abortion. But Son begs Girl to return to him and together they prepare for the big rodeo. The church burns down, and Padre moves on to another parish. Son is thrown from his horse, sustaining major neurogenic injuries that leave him with a ruined face and completely dependent on Girl. And then the rains come. Realism is not the point in Girl’s elliptical narrative, told in a vernacular that mixes biblical grandiosity and down-home grit.

An undeniably audacious, if self-consciously Southwest Gothic debut that fans of Cormac McCarthy should adore.

Pub Date: Dec. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-316-09877-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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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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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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LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

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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