A cleareyed and convincing story of a family's doomed attempt to reconcile and the limits of forgiveness.

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WILL AND TESTAMENT

Prizewinning Norwegian novelist Hjorth (Talk To Me, 2010, etc.) mines an inheritance dispute among four siblings to delve into the burden of family secrets and the ripple effects of early childhood trauma.

Bergljot, a divorced writer with three grown children, cut off contact with her parents years ago and has no expectation of being included in their will. But when there's a dispute over two summer cabins, she sides with her brother and finds herself pulled back into the family she has worked desperately to escape. "The street of my childhood," a friend remarks, quoting a Danish poet, "is the root of my being." Her childlike mother and her younger sisters want to deny her early abuse by their domineering father; her brother has his own damage to contend with. "What was it like to be a normal human being?" she wonders. "I didn't know." The strength of the novel lies in Bergljot's convincing and continuing vulnerability, in her mixed feelings and her flaws. "The presence of my lost childhood, the constant return of this loss had made me who I was." She hates her mother for not being able to protect her but tries to feel compassion, even for her father. The drama heightens—there are confrontations, an overdose, a death, pleas for reconciliation, a sealed letter in a safe—but it's her desire to be believed and truly seen that drives the narrative forward. There are no easy resolutions here. Describing the night outside the pizzeria where she finally meets her mother again after years of estrangement, Bergljot says: "It was the kind of darkness that falls, the kind of darkness that flows and spreads, that penetrates buildings and houses and takes over no matter how many lights you turn on, no matter how many candles you put on the table and in the windowsills, no matter how many torches you light...a darkness full of knives."

A cleareyed and convincing story of a family's doomed attempt to reconcile and the limits of forgiveness.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78873-310-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Verso

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

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LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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