Points for honesty and grit, though that’s hardly enough to compensate for all the flaws.


A Desert Storm veteran's amateurish and overwritten, if not without a certain rakish appeal, first novel—about African-Americans in the military—pulls few punches in depicting the tribulations of First Lieutenant Sanderella Coffee.

Twenty-nine and just back from a tour of duty in Germany, Sanderella is focused on her illustrious goal—biding her time in Virginia until she’s admitted to Officers’ Candidate School. A single mother of three (by three fathers), Sanderella admits that when matters veer toward love, she’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer. So she swears off men—that is, until she catches sight of Drill Sergeant Romulus Caesar. As the story alternates between the voices of Sandie and Rom (so seamlessly it’s often difficult to tell who’s talking), the two begin a passionate affair, despite Romulus being married, with twin boys at home. He promises Sandie he’ll divorce, and for a certain time their relationship seems promising. The two, neither of them particularly likable, build a supportive relationship, one that helps carry Sandie through hard times: Her older sister has HIV, both of her parents are ill, her superior officer has it in for her, and, to top it off, she discovers she’s pregnant. Unfortunately coinciding with Sandie’s pregnancy is the appearance of Rom’s guilty conscience. He decides to break it off and return to his wife and sons, not wanting to be the kind of absent parent his father was to him. Though overloaded with uplifting convictions as to the potential of the African-American community, a certain raw honesty in the depiction of Sandie and her family redeems the obvious sentiments. Less forgivable is the language, too often ungoverned and unintentionally silly: “ ‘Sandie,’ he said as he reached inside his briefs and carefully extracted his family jewels, ‘this is Mr. Bobo. And he’s all yours.’ ”

Points for honesty and grit, though that’s hardly enough to compensate for all the flaws.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2002

ISBN: 0-375-75777-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2001

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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