A tale that deals with a worthy subject, but without the gravity and depth to tackle it in any satisfying way.

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IN THE CITY OF THE DISAPPEARED

Will romantic love keep a 23-year-old Peace Corps volunteer in a country where soldiers will beat him—or worse—for the slightest provocation? That’s the $64,000 question in this somewhat shallow treatment of Chilean life under Pinochet’s savage regime.

Harry Bayliss arrives in 1978 Chile armed for his ordeal with only fluent Spanish and a good batting average. The onetime minor-league player plans to while away a year in tropical climes, teaching baseball to underprivileged children. His naïve vision is shattered, however, during his first confrontation with soldiers. They spit on him and, when he objects, threaten to take him in for `interrogation.` Harry’s eyes open even further when he ventures into poverty-stricken neighborhoods and meets the grief-overwhelmed families of the Disappeared—revolutionaries who are arrested, never to be heard from again. `You have to be tough to live here,` Harry announces. Such trite proclamations plague Hazuka’s second novel (The Road to the Island, 1998). The author seems more intent on dictating the reader’s reaction to his scenes than on adding character depth. He further misses his opportunity for profundity when Harry falls in love with Marisol Huerta, a former wife of one of the Disappeared. True, this twist exposes Harry more deeply to the country’s inequities—he visits a mental asylum for subversives, and a friend is assassinated. But Hazuka’s refusal to sketch Marisol’s background—it’s too painful for her to talk about—robs the story of its more personal and affecting elements. Some sentiment is stirred, at least, when Harry’s firing from the Peace Corps forces him to decide whether love for Marisol makes it worth staying in a brutal country .

A tale that deals with a worthy subject, but without the gravity and depth to tackle it in any satisfying way.

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-882593-31-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bridge Works

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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