Lyrical, haunting literary fiction.

IN THE GARDEN OF STONE

It is 1924. Up in West Virginia’s coal country, in a town called War, young Emma awakens one morning to find her house buried in the debris of an overturned rail car.

Tekulve’s (Savage Pilgrims, 2009, etc.) debut novel examines love, family and place through an affecting multigenerational saga. Emma’s the daughter of a Sicilian immigrant and his American schoolteacher wife, a woman grown bitter. The lone girl in a houseful of brothers, all coal miners like her father, Emma helps her mother, a deeply religious Catholic convert, with the work demanded by the harsh, coal dust–covered world. Perhaps there is symbolism when Caleb Sypher uses a white handkerchief to clean Emma’s bloody feet after the derailment. There is certainly love and empathy and then a wedding a week later, after which Emma and Caleb retreat to his Virginia farm. Tekulve's descriptions of the hard, cold, dirty coal camp life, above and below ground, are masterful, and as the narrative moves to Virginia and Caleb is battered by the Great Depression, the author superbly draws struggling Caleb’s withdrawal into his perception of perfection: an ornate Italian garden set among the mountain’s hemlocks, blue laurels and rhododendrons. But Caleb is murdered by a tramp, and the narrative evolves to follow Dean, their son. Dean’s reluctantly taken to War while his shattered mother recovers, but Dean loves the mountain farm and treasures his mother. He returns to care for her and soon marries Sadie—think Ruby from Cold Mountain—a lonely girl who births him a daughter, Hannah. Tekulve’s great gift is to live in the hearts of her characters, whether it be Caleb, Emma, Dean, Sadie or the older Italian immigrant generation toiling in the mines.  

Lyrical, haunting literary fiction.

Pub Date: May 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-891885-21-1

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Hub City Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2013

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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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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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