A well-crafted, beautiful novel about a fraught childhood moment.

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DAHLIA IN BLOOM

A young girl in Appalachia during the Great Depression copes with her family’s move to a new farm in Koehler’s (The Complete K-5 Writing Workshop, 2013, etc.) novel. 

Dahlia Harrell is an 8-year-old girl in a family of tenant farmers in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s the 1930s, and though Dahlia is in a loving family, not everything is quite right. She has recently recovered from a case of diphtheria. Money is tight. The family can eat what they grow and rely on the chickens and cow, Ol’ Rosie, but having cash in hand is rare. Dahlia thinks: “With enough money, a person could buy away any reason they ever had to feel afraid.” Though Dahlia’s world is small, her life on Harrell Mountain is full of wonder, mystery, and big dreams. Her brother Charlie believes there is buried treasure on the property that will make them as rich as the Rockefellers. Grandpa talks of the family’s history in the area as he and Dahlia lie on the ground gazing at stars. But her father breaks the news that the family will be moving to a new farm, one owned by another family. He hopes it will improve their circumstances, but to Charlie, it means giving up on the buried treasure, and Dahlia can’t imagine living far away from her grandfather. But they do move—the girls in flour-sack dresses with cornhusk dolls—and a relief society steps in to give the kids new clothes for school. Nervous about her skills and fighting with her sister, Dahlia worries about her grandfather and wonders if she’ll ever be able to return to Harrell Mountain. Koehler’s Depression-era novel is concise but effective and weighty. In a time of great change for Dahlia, Koehler paints a clear portrait of this family and their circumstances with writing that is subtle and strong. Dahlia’s world has just gotten much bigger, and her increasing awareness of herself as compared with others is thoughtfully described. Rich details abound on everything from meals to economics to a precious missing doll, but it’s the author’s gift for making a specific story so universal that stands out.  

A well-crafted, beautiful novel about a fraught childhood moment.  

Pub Date: July 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9859438-8-2

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Turtle Cove Press

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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