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PACIFIC

The always fresh perspective of this one-of-a-kind writer will have you responding like his character, who “laughed with...

Getting by, getting over, getting laid: Drury’s characters keep busy in his fifth novel, another wild ride.

Some of them we’ve met before in Hunts in Dreams (2000) and The End of Vandalism (1994): Charles, Joan, Lyris and Micah. The action is split among small Midwest towns and Los Angeles. Charles, now known as Tiny, had a plumbing business which has since failed. His ex-wife, Joan, has moved to LA and has a juicy role in a TV show. Stepdaughter Lyris has moved into town to shack up with a young newspaper reporter. Joan re-appears to claim 14-year-old Micah and move him to the coast. She’s going to take another stab at this mothering business; or is she just playing a role? These departures leave Tiny in an empty nest. Out of loneliness, he starts stealing boxes from the loading docks of big-box stores. That’s kids’ stuff compared to Jack Snow’s criminal enterprise. Jack is an ex-con shipping fake Celtic artifacts from a warehouse. It’s his bad luck to be tracked down by Sandra Zulma, his old childhood playmate. Sandra is now cuckoo, lost in a Celtic fantasy world, but with the single-minded energy of the mad, she is looking for a rock that Jack may own. Also on Jack’s trail is Dan, once the sheriff but now working for a detective agency, though he hates the sleaze. He and his wife, Louise, are emblems of decency; their private sorrow is the loss of a daughter at birth. Meanwhile, in LA, Micah is experimenting with drugs and girls, while Joan is making the leap to the big screen and sleeping with the screenwriter. The second half includes a murder and a divorce; Micah, overwhelmed, calls his half sister Lyris, who flies out to help. There’s no plot or protagonist, but a fine percussive beat sweeps the reader along.

The always fresh perspective of this one-of-a-kind writer will have you responding like his character, who “laughed with surprise in her heart.”

Pub Date: May 7, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8021-1999-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2013

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THE MOST FUN WE EVER HAD

Characters flip between bottomless self-regard and pitiless self-loathing while, as late as the second-to-last chapter, yet...

Four Chicago sisters anchor a sharp, sly family story of feminine guile and guilt.

Newcomer Lombardo brews all seven deadly sins into a fun and brimming tale of an unapologetically bougie couple and their unruly daughters. In the opening scene, Liza Sorenson, daughter No. 3, flirts with a groomsman at her sister’s wedding. “There’s four of you?” he asked. “What’s that like?” Her retort: “It’s a vast hormonal hellscape. A marathon of instability and hair products.” Thus begins a story bristling with a particular kind of female intel. When Wendy, the oldest, sets her sights on a mate, she “made sure she left her mark throughout his house—soy milk in the fridge, box of tampons under the sink, surreptitious spritzes of her Bulgari musk on the sheets.” Turbulent Wendy is the novel’s best character, exuding a delectable bratty-ness. The parents—Marilyn, all pluck and busy optimism, and David, a genial family doctor—strike their offspring as impossibly happy. Lombardo levels this vision by interspersing chapters of the Sorenson parents’ early lean times with chapters about their daughters’ wobbly forays into adulthood. The central story unfurls over a single event-choked year, begun by Wendy, who unlatches a closed adoption and springs on her family the boy her stuffy married sister, Violet, gave away 15 years earlier. (The sisters improbably kept David and Marilyn clueless with a phony study-abroad scheme.) Into this churn, Lombardo adds cancer, infidelity, a heart attack, another unplanned pregnancy, a stillbirth, and an office crush for David. Meanwhile, youngest daughter Grace perpetrates a whopper, and “every day the lie was growing like mold, furring her judgment.” The writing here is silky, if occasionally overwrought. Still, the deft touches—a neighborhood fundraiser for a Little Free Library, a Twilight character as erotic touchstone—delight. The class calibrations are divine even as the utter apolitical whiteness of the Sorenson world becomes hard to fathom.

Characters flip between bottomless self-regard and pitiless self-loathing while, as late as the second-to-last chapter, yet another pleasurable tendril of sisterly malice uncurls.

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54425-2

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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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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