HOME REPAIRS

Ellis's second novel (Platitudes, 1988) is mostly doodling- -ostensibly the journal kept in the 1980's by an affluent black whose mind is filled with women he loves madly but momentarily, and usually chastely. ``I'm just going to dredge up all the bad memories I've had in my love life and see if hindsight will show me what I've been doing wrong,'' says Ellis's hero, Austin McMillan, the oversexed romantic—Andover, Stanford, Europe—whose book this is. On the one hand, it's simply his list of lusts, beginning with Ruthie, the ``Kissing Cootie,'' and ending long after the reader has lost interest. This isn't to say there's not a fair amount of funny stuff inside this shapeless manuscript—it is to say that Ellis's use of the journal format results in endless brief entries that most self-regarding novelists would have stitched together with a greater sense of dramatic invention and coherence: ``I've just read The Sorrows of Young Werther for the third time, and it wasn't even assigned.'' ``If I could just touch her butt, then my at that time fourteen-year losing streak would end.'' Priorities at Stanford: ``1. Fall in love 2. Get laid 3. Become cooler....'' Austin's comedy of errors with regard to the fairer sex, along with his litany of books read and sights seen, are no more interesting than what any kid of privilege down the block might invent to flesh out a slow afternoon. A collection of vignettes, wet dreams, and sweet-natured obsessions with women and sex that is more slice-of-life sociology than fiction: the genuinely amusing episodes—and there are a number of them—get lost in the muddle.

Pub Date: July 6, 1993

ISBN: 0-671-76924-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1993

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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