An enjoyable, if slightly preachy, story of a trip to the Arctic.

QUIET FREEDOM

Debut novelist Peace tells the story of a woman who travels to Greenland to find a polar bear in the wild.

Reeling from the sudden death of her best friend, Amanda has trouble finding meaning in the Seattle-based marketing job to which she’s dedicated her life. She hopes to be awed by the polar bear exhibit at the local zoo, but even this is disappointing: “A feeling of sadness came over Amanda. She wondered if anyone realized how manufactured the zoo was.” A conversation with a similarly zoo-skeptical traveler convinces Amanda that she’ll need to go out into nature and seek out awesome experiences firsthand. She decides to put the rest of her life on hold and embark on a journey to northern Greenland in order to attain her new life goal: to see a polar bear in its natural surroundings. The journey ends up being a bit more than she bargained for, as she deals with the physical dangers of the high Arctic as well as psychologically defeating realizations about the Earth’s rapidly changing climate. Laying eyes on one of the world’s most endangered beasts may not change the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, but will it be enough to introduce Amanda to her core self? Peace writes in a simple yet elegant prose style, frequently mixing in facts and figures to keep the reader abreast of the situation’s real-life stakes: “A single polar bear’s natural territory can be hundreds of square miles….A typical zoo enclosure for a polar bear can be up to eighty million times smaller than a wild bear’s home range.” But these didactic flourishes, along with the meticulous documentation of Amanda’s journey (the novel is nearly 500 pages long), sometimes make the work read more like a travel memoir than a fictional account. The motivations for the trip also feel a bit contrived. But Amanda’s quest is compelling nevertheless: an adventure at the top of the world that feels relevant to the life of every reader—and to the planet as a whole.

An enjoyable, if slightly preachy, story of a trip to the Arctic.

Pub Date: March 24, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9962705-0-2

Page Count: 498

Publisher: Norlight Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2018

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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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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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