Good sloppy fun: A well-paced, believable, and genuinely funny story that manages to make a few nice points along the way.


A genial first outing, laced with regional flavor and black humor, about a grief-stricken young man’s attempts to get himself killed in flagrante delicto.

Waterboro, South Carolina, is not quite Tobacco Road, but it is the sort of town where boys have names like “Whalie” or “Sutton” and you can laugh it off when someone takes a drunken potshot at you as a joke. And then there’s the sex: Women tend to stay at home down here, but that’s not necessarily so they can home-school their kids or make biscuits from scratch. Young Burden, the grocer’s boy, found this out once his father decided he was old enough to start making the deliveries (“it’s important,” he tells him, “that our customers stay happy customers”). First off, Dr. Whitman’s considerably younger wife Maude got it into her head one afternoon to teach Burden the facts of life—and, to the boy’s amazement, seemed not to mind repeating the lesson the following week (and each one thereafter). Pruella Boaz, herself not much older than Burden, was so bored with her trucker husband Eugene that she became a regular on Burden’s route, too. But Burden (now 23) has taken a strange turn lately, becoming more and more careless about getting out the door before the husbands return—almost as if he wanted to get caught. And there are other things: he spends more and more time visiting the grave of his cousin Peedie, who was killed during a very messed-up night he spent with Burden some years ago. There are guilt trips and there are death wishes, with sometimes not much difference between them. Oh, and Burden’s old flame Jo has come back to town, turning the thermostat up a few more degrees. As if you really need it down South.

Good sloppy fun: A well-paced, believable, and genuinely funny story that manages to make a few nice points along the way.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-28705-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 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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