A plodding quality slips in, the sense that Rideout is following the historical dots, but she does a terrific job describing...

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ABOVE ALL THINGS

George Mallory is famous for answering “Because it’s there” when asked why he kept trying to scale Everest, but Canadian Rideout’s debut novel about Mallory’s disastrous last climbing attempt is the story of a love triangle: a man, a woman and a mountain.

After two failures, George has promised his wife, Ruth, that he is done with Everest, but in 1924, he leaves Ruth with their three small children in Cambridge, where he is a professor and part of the Strachey/Bloomsbury world, to join a third expedition to the mountain. He is 37-years-old, with movie-star looks and charm. Ruth supported his earlier attempts, but now she is jealous of his time away climbing. She is right to be jealous since the real love they feel for each other is no match for his hunger for adventure or for Everest, which is always referred to in feminine terms. Although a large portion of the novel takes place in Cambridge, where Ruth waits for letters from George while caring for her children, her domestic dramas—insecurity about her abilities as a mother, mild attraction to family friend Will, hostility toward Mr. Hinks, chairman of the Mount Everest Committee, who sponsored the expedition—cannot compete with the drama on Everest itself. George feels the need to vindicate himself on this trip after an avalanche disaster that killed seven Tibetans during the last attempt. Five members of the team have attempted Everest together before. The new member, Sandy Irvine, is much younger, still a university student and eager to prove himself, especially to George. Petty tensions arise among the men bound so closely in isolation, but there is indescribable intimacy as well as they face life-and-death challenges on a daily basis.

A plodding quality slips in, the sense that Rideout is following the historical dots, but she does a terrific job describing both the extreme physical conditions and the dreamlike consciousness George and Sandy drift into as their memories of home intertwine with their moment-to-moment climb.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-399-16058-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2012

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Charming, challenging, and so interesting you can hardly put it down.

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SUCH A FUN AGE

The relationship between a privileged white mom and her black babysitter is strained by race-related complications.

Blogger/role model/inspirational speaker Alix Chamberlain is none too happy about moving from Manhattan to Philadelphia for her husband Peter's job as a TV newscaster. With no friends or in-laws around to help out with her almost-3-year-old, Briar, and infant, Catherine, she’ll never get anywhere on the book she’s writing unless she hires a sitter. She strikes gold when she finds Emira Tucker. Twenty-five-year-old Emira’s family and friends expect her to get going on a career, but outside the fact that she’s about to get kicked off her parents’ health insurance, she’s happy with her part-time gigs—and Briar is her "favorite little human." Then one day a double-header of racist events topples the apple cart—Emira is stopped by a security guard who thinks she's kidnapped Briar, and when Peter's program shows a segment on the unusual ways teenagers ask their dates to the prom, he blurts out "Let's hope that last one asked her father first" about a black boy hoping to go with a white girl. Alix’s combination of awkwardness and obsession with regard to Emira spins out of control and then is complicated by the reappearance of someone from her past (coincidence alert), where lies yet another racist event. Reid’s debut sparkles with sharp observations and perfect details—food, décor, clothes, social media, etc.—and she’s a dialogue genius, effortlessly incorporating toddler-ese, witty boyfriend–speak, and African American Vernacular English. For about two-thirds of the book, her evenhandedness with her varied cast of characters is impressive, but there’s a point at which any possible empathy for Alix disappears. Not only is she shallow, entitled, unknowingly racist, and a bad mother, but she has not progressed one millimeter since high school, and even then she was worse than we thought. Maybe this was intentional, but it does make things—ha ha—very black and white.

Charming, challenging, and so interesting you can hardly put it down.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-54190-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Well-written and insightful but so heartbreaking that it raises the question of what a reader is looking for in fiction.

DEAR EDWARD

A 12-year-old boy is the sole survivor of a plane crash—a study in before and after.

Edward Adler is moving to California with his adored older brother, Jordan, and their parents: Mom is a scriptwriter for television, Dad is a mathematician who is home schooling his sons. They will get no further than Colorado, where the plane goes down. Napolitano’s (A Good Hard Look, 2011, etc.) novel twins the narrative of the flight from takeoff to impact with the story of Edward’s life over the next six years. Taken in by his mother’s sister and her husband, a childless couple in New Jersey, Edward’s misery is constant and almost impermeable. Unable to bear sleeping in the never-used nursery his aunt and uncle have hastily appointed to serve as his bedroom, he ends up bunking next door, where there's a kid his age, a girl named Shay. This friendship becomes the single strand connecting him to the world of the living. Meanwhile, in alternating chapters, we meet all the doomed airplane passengers, explore their backstories, and learn about their hopes and plans, every single one of which is minutes from obliteration. For some readers, Napolitano’s premise will be too dark to bear, underlining our terrible vulnerability to random events and our inability to protect ourselves or our children from the worst-case scenario while also imagining in exhaustive detail the bleak experience of survival. The people around Edward have no idea how to deal with him; his aunt and uncle try their best to protect him from the horrors of his instant celebrity as Miracle Boy. As one might expect, there is a ray of light for Edward at the end of the tunnel, and for hardier readers this will make Napolitano’s novel a story of hope.

Well-written and insightful but so heartbreaking that it raises the question of what a reader is looking for in fiction.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-5478-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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