First-novelist Hillmer has written a coming-of-age tale that's also an adventure yarn, a romance, and a sensitive portrayal of how men relate to each other. The surprise is that it all works. Unable to find other employment, 19-year-old Roy signs on with Kern River Search and Rescue—known unofficially as the hookmen because of the grappling hooks they use to pull the bodies of drowned campers and tourists from the turbulent waters of the Kern. The crew is led by an acerbic old man named Crawdad. Under his tutelage, Roy becomes a skilled rafter and pushes himself to acts of physical courage. He finds an enigmatic friend in crewmate Walker, a Vietnam veteran who obsessively kayaks the most forbidding stretches of the river and creates twisted abstract sculptures. Roy, in turn, is haunted by the faces of the river's victims—especially the first one he sees, a young woman who looks as if ``one touch could bring her back. One kiss.'' Meanwhile, his mother and sister have moved away from his father, fleeing his drunken rages, and Roy assumes financial and emotional responsibility for him. When he meets Rita, a vulnerable woman with a secret past, they begin, cautiously, to fall in love. With Rita, he finds tenderness and shares an appreciation of the California wilderness. She shows him her cherished part of the river, a serene spot where graceful herons nest, and her delicate drawings of them. When Crawdad asks Roy and Walker to join him on his dream trip of rafting the perilous rapids and cataracts of the upper Kern, all of their destinies intertwine. Events culminate in a breathtaking daredevil expedition that brings resolution to a long-simmering dispute between Crawdad and Walker, and to Roy's relationships with Rita and his father—but not without a surprising and tragic consequence. With its counterpoint of brawny action and poetic description, this finely honed novel has all the pleasing contradictions of the river itself.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-87081-348-X

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Univ. Press of Colorado

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1994

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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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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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