THE END OF VANDALISM

Drury's first novel, set in Grouse County, a network of small towns in the Midwest, is a poker-faced look at American folkways in a world that is precarious and perverse. Grouse County does not have cable, and it will never, ancient rumors to the contrary, play host to a farm movie starring Sally Field. On the other hand it does have Big Days, town meetings, and periodic elections for Sheriff. Instead of a plot, Drury provides a panoramic view of the county, a host of minor characters, and three major ones: Tiny Darling, an unconvicted thief; his wife, Louise, and Sheriff Dan Norman. While Tiny is an instantly recognizable lowlife, Drury constructs Dan and Louise almost stealthily, a detail here, a trait there. Early on Louise tires of her seven-year marriage to Tiny and throws him out. In short order, she and Dan are dating, sleeping together, living together, married. Dan is a laid-back sheriff, but he has no experience of domesticity. Bothered by insomnia, he sees a therapist who finds him unreadable, as does Louise, though she continues to love him. The crisis comes when Louise almost dies after her baby is stillborn. The irony (unforced) is that earlier Sheriff Dan had been led to an abandoned baby in a supermarket. The unwanted baby lives; the wanted baby dies. Shattered, Louise retreats to her aunt's house in Minnesota while Dan runs for re-election. A poor politician, he is almost defeated by a rich farmer's son and dirty tricks engineered by Tiny. Louise returns home. Slow fade. There's an awful lot here to like: the dialogue, the sly humor, the feather-light touch, the clean drive of the prose. All Drury needs is a plot for his work to really take off.

Pub Date: March 29, 1994

ISBN: 0-395-62151-8

Page Count: 321

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1994

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Honeyman’s endearing debut is part comic novel, part emotional thriller, and part love story.

ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE

A very funny novel about the survivor of a childhood trauma.

At 29, Eleanor Oliphant has built an utterly solitary life that almost works. During the week, she toils in an office—don’t inquire further; in almost eight years no one has—and from Friday to Monday she makes the time go by with pizza and booze. Enlivening this spare existence is a constant inner monologue that is cranky, hilarious, deadpan, and irresistible. Eleanor Oliphant has something to say about everything. Riding the train, she comments on the automated announcements: “I wondered at whom these pearls of wisdom were aimed; some passing extraterrestrial, perhaps, or a yak herder from Ulan Bator who had trekked across the steppes, sailed the North Sea, and found himself on the Glasgow-Edinburgh service with literally no prior experience of mechanized transport to call upon.” Eleanor herself might as well be from Ulan Bator—she’s never had a manicure or a haircut, worn high heels, had anyone visit her apartment, or even had a friend. After a mysterious event in her childhood that left half her face badly scarred, she was raised in foster care, spent her college years in an abusive relationship, and is now, as the title states, perfectly fine. Her extreme social awkwardness has made her the butt of nasty jokes among her colleagues, which don’t seem to bother her much, though one notices she is stockpiling painkillers and becoming increasingly obsessed with an unrealistic crush on a local musician. Eleanor’s life begins to change when Raymond, a goofy guy from the IT department, takes her for a potential friend, not a freak of nature. As if he were luring a feral animal from its hiding place with a bit of cheese, he gradually brings Eleanor out of her shell. Then it turns out that shell was serving a purpose.

Honeyman’s endearing debut is part comic novel, part emotional thriller, and part love story.

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2068-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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Coelho's placebo has racked up impressive sales in Brazil and Europe. Americans should flock to it like gulls.

THE ALCHEMIST

Coelho is a Brazilian writer with four books to his credit. Following Diary of a Magus (1992—not reviewed) came this book, published in Brazil in 1988: it's an interdenominational, transcendental, inspirational fable—in other words, a bag of wind. 

 The story is about a youth empowered to follow his dream. Santiago is an Andalusian shepherd boy who learns through a dream of a treasure in the Egyptian pyramids. An old man, the king of Salem, the first of various spiritual guides, tells the boy that he has discovered his destiny: "to realize one's destiny is a person's only real obligation." So Santiago sells his sheep, sails to Tangier, is tricked out of his money, regains it through hard work, crosses the desert with a caravan, stops at an oasis long enough to fall in love, escapes from warring tribesmen by performing a miracle, reaches the pyramids, and eventually gets both the gold and the girl. Along the way he meets an Englishman who describes the Soul of the World; the desert woman Fatima, who teaches him the Language of the World; and an alchemist who says, "Listen to your heart" A message clings like ivy to every encounter; everyone, but everyone, has to put in their two cents' worth, from the crystal merchant to the camel driver ("concentrate always on the present, you'll be a happy man"). The absence of characterization and overall blandness suggest authorship by a committee of self-improvement pundits—a far cry from Saint- Exupery's The Little Prince: that flagship of the genre was a genuine charmer because it clearly derived from a quirky, individual sensibility. 

 Coelho's placebo has racked up impressive sales in Brazil and Europe. Americans should flock to it like gulls.

Pub Date: July 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-06-250217-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1993

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