Can-I-get-a-witness enthusiasm can’t compensate for a nearly nonexistent story. From the author of similar tales (The Hand I...


Three generations of small-town black women, aided by lovable ghosts.

Lily Paine Pines drives around Mulberry, Georgia, looking for LaShawndra, her wayward granddaughter, when the wispy, wrinkled apparition of a much-loved local teacher, Miss Grace Moses, appears in the seat beside her, offering sage counsel and companionship during the long night. Miss Moses listens patiently as Lily reminisces about her own childhood and teaching career—and about her failed marriage to Charles, a compulsive gambler who doted on their only daughter, Sandra. Did he spoil her? As a teenager, Sandra got pregnant but never paid much attention to her daughter, much to Lily’s dismay. Now, Sandra, who sells real estate, is involved in a romantic relationship with a preacher and is generally obsessed with respectability and material things. Luckily, she’s showing houses to another wise ghost, Nurse Joanna Bloom, once a midwife at the local colored hospital. Joanna is a stalwart spirit in starched white who teaches cynical Sandra a thing or two about hope. Sandra finds out that Joanna aborted her own illegitimate baby decades ago—and made up for it by bringing generations of babies into the world. Shift to LaShawndra, a hootchie-mama of 19 who favors microskirts and tube tops. She’s got a reputation as a ho (she isn’t) and is always ready to hook up with any good-for-nothing who struts by; now, she’s hitching to Freaknik, a wild spring-break party for black college students, when a phat phantom in a shiny black Jag pulls over. Why, it’s Liza Jane, the glamorous, tough-talking former owner of a juke joint. LaShawndra can’t tell if Liza Jane is real or not, but her car sure is. The two head down the road, and LaShawndra finds out that the good times can kill her if she’s not careful. And so on.

Can-I-get-a-witness enthusiasm can’t compensate for a nearly nonexistent story. From the author of similar tales (The Hand I Fan With, 1996, etc.).

Pub Date: April 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-019779-X

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2002

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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