A clever story of midlife dysfunction set on a Mexican vacation gone awry.

FOUR CALLING BURDS

A family vacation in Mexico goes off the rails for four adult siblings in this literary novel from Meis (Deluge, 2016, etc.).

Following the death of their mother after a protracted illness, the four adult Burd children decide to take a vacation together in the Mexican resort town of Puerto Vallarta—the site of their parents’ honeymoon. “No spouses. No kids,” insists M, the oldest daughter. “Just the four of us together for the first time in ages. We deserve it. The last few months have been tough.” The trip gives the siblings a chance to discuss their various midlife crises—though what each says contains some surprises for the others. AJ, a mother of two, reveals that her marriage is threatened by her Trump-loving husband’s emerging bigotries. Lio is wracked with remorse for screwing up his marriage a decade ago, afraid he may never have the kind of relationship he’d like with his teenage daughter. Augie, a trivia-obsessed librarian, loves his husband and son, but he can’t help feeling tempted by a freer life in the middle of the famous “Mexican gay Mecca.” In the biggest shock of all, M, a child psychologist with a husband back home, reveals that she identifies as a man. When two of the siblings are kidnapped, however, the Burd family crises become significantly more pressing. Meis’ prose is lively and often funny, with the point of view bouncing back and forth among the four siblings. “Since my move to Modesto, Lio and I hadn’t gotten together as much as when we lived just a couple miles from each other in Oakland,” explains AJ. “If the kidnapping had a positive aspect, we had plenty of time to reminisce about our lives and talk about a future if there was to be one.” The setting and hostage situation breathe some fresh air into the familiar family-with-problems premise, and each of the four main characters is well drawn and engaging. The plot manages to be sincere yet lighthearted, resulting in a mostly rewarding reading experience with a few laughs along the way.

A clever story of midlife dysfunction set on a Mexican vacation gone awry.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9976728-4-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Vincent Meis Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

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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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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