GOLIATH

A factory owner’s suicide hastens the decline of a small town.

  Woodring (Springtime on Mars, 2008, etc.) doesn’t specify the state, but her fictional Goliath is clearly in the South, and the fact that the on-the-brink-of-bankruptcy factory makes furniture suggests her native North Carolina. It’s a mild October day when teenaged Vincent Bailey finds the crushed body of Percy Harding on the railroad tracks, but cold weather and hard times are coming. Percy’s death has changed Goliath’s zeitgeist, thinks police chief Clyde Winston: “It was as if every person in town had put their own bodies in way of the train and were all broken now, spiritless.” Mood-directing statements like this dot the narrative, which swoops in and out of many lives. Central among them is Rosamond Rogers, who was Percy’s secretary and has become a reluctant repository of her neighbors’ confidences about everything from stealing candy to deliberately pricking babies with diaper pins. None of the confidences seem to justify the book’s lugubrious atmosphere, nor does the main action, which shows Rosamond and her daughter Agnes groping for love with Clyde and his son Ray, county groundskeeper and freelance preacher. (Rosamond’s traveling-salesman husband left years ago; Agnes has dropped out of college and a sort-of marriage to return to Goliath, though she’s not quite sure why.) A more baroque plotline follows Vincent, radically unsettled by his discovery of Percy’s corpse, in his reckless friendship with the equally troubled Cassie, who incites the boy to eat increasingly dangerous objects (culminating in a live mouse) and to rob houses with her. These stories, and many other subordinate ones, develop very slowly, and Woodring’s tone adds to the sense of stasis—she mistakes portentousness for seriousness and proclamations for insights. The climax, complete with a parade, a baseball game and a cataclysmic fire, is much too obviously designed to ensure “that Goliath should end in devastation and miracle.”

 

Pub Date: April 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-67501-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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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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