THE GRASS DANCER

Power's potent debut is less a novel than a multilayered portrait of a North Dakota Sioux community. Interlocking stories mostly recede chronologically and bring to life not just individual characters but also their links to one another in the past and the present. In 1977 Jeanette McVay is shown teaching eighth-grade social studies to her Native American students. In a later section, her 1961 arrival is depicted through the eyes of the powerful Anna Thunder, who sprinkles reservation dirt in Jeanette's shoes, making it impossible for the well-meaning graduate student to leave. Anna figures in many of these stories. When her daughter Crystal becomes pregnant by a Swedish-American named Martin Lundstrom and marries him, Anna steals their daughter at birth, and Crystal tells Martin that the baby is dead. After her ghost is mentioned, a woman named Red Dress arrives to explain what happened to her in 1864 that keeps her from resting peacefully, and later she visits Crystal Thunder's daughter Charlene after Charlene uses her grandmother's ``bad medicine'' to attract men and reaps terrible results. Red Dress also describes the 19th-century attempts of Father La Frambois to convert reservation dwellers. After she translates the priest's bible stories for her father he asks, ``Why are his people so determined to kill their relatives?'' This too reverberates later, when some Indian characters are shown attending parochial school. Despite the fact that many of these stories deal in the supernatural and that they intersect almost constantly, there is never a feeling that Power is forcing her hand, and although the nonchronological arrangement takes away some clarity, in return it graces the book with numerous small and large surprises and moments of recognition. Startling and complex, but always in the most natural way. (First serial to the Paris Review, VLS, and the Atlantic Monthly; Book-of-the-Month Club/Quality Paperback Book Club selections; author tour)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 1994

ISBN: 0-399-13911-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1994

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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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TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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