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ULTRAVIOLET

This is a stoic view of mother-daughter love: an unsentimental reflection on both the tribulations and the importance of...

Three generations of women seek to forge independent identities while struggling to understand their roles in this book about mothers and daughters, marriage, education, and risk.

Matson (The Tree-Sitter, 2006) writes vignettelike chapters that detail a sweeping family history beginning in 1930s India, where Elsie is married to J.N., a strict Mennonite missionary. “India keeps reducing [Elsie] to a person who knows nothing,” but her daughter, Kathryn, questions the world directly and moves through it fluidly. While Elsie averts her eyes from uncertainty and a world that seems to belong to men, Kathryn is curious and engaged. Unfortunately, Elsie dies early, of a stroke. Kathryn, upon returning to the United States, feels detached from her family, education, and culture: “The gulf between India and America was so wide she could scarcely see past it.” She feels like “a person awkwardly between worlds—India and Illinois, Mennonite and modern,” and so she strikes out on her own for Oregon. She meets Carl, a confident stranger who promises to be the antithesis to everything she’s lived before. Unfortunately, Carl harbors some secrets. “All [Kathryn] wants,” though, “is that simple feeling of belonging.” They marry and have children, but their marriage begins to crumble under the weight of those secrets. Matson returns to the push and pull of safety versus desire. It is Kathryn’s daughter, Samantha, whose life becomes about both taking risk and keeping the family together in a meaningful way. Matson’s chapters, each of which jumps forward in time, conclude with an especially poignant reflection on aging, as Samantha cares for her dying mother in her final days.

This is a stoic view of mother-daughter love: an unsentimental reflection on both the tribulations and the importance of filial connection.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-936787-95-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Catapult

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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HOUSE OF LEAVES

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

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OF MICE AND MEN

Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Steinbeck refuses to allow himself to be pigeonholed.

This is as completely different from Tortilla Flat and In Dubious Battle as they are from each other. Only in his complete understanding of the proletarian mentality does he sustain a connecting link though this is assuredly not a "proletarian novel." It is oddly absorbing this picture of the strange friendship between the strong man and the giant with the mind of a not-quite-bright child. Driven from job to job by the failure of the giant child to fit into the social pattern, they finally find in a ranch what they feel their chance to achieve a homely dream they have built. But once again, society defeats them. There's a simplicity, a directness, a poignancy in the story that gives it a singular power, difficult to define.  Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1936

ISBN: 0140177396

Page Count: 83

Publisher: Covici, Friede

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1936

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