An appealing and original story that gets bogged down in its own originality: it would have worked better had the author...

THE ADVENTURES OF FLASH JACKSON

Canadian Kowalski’s third outing, a follow-up to his debut (Eddie’s Bastard, 1999), offers an engaging, offbeat account of an All-American girl coming of age in a very strange town.

A backwoods village on Lake Erie, Mannville, New York, is the home of 17-year-old Haley Bombauer, who prefers to be called “Flash Jackson.” An inveterate tomboy (“a stuntman trapped in a female body”), Haley is laid up for the summer with a broken leg, sustained when she fell through the roof of her mother’s barn. Her grandmother, a strict Mennonite, lives as a semi-recluse in a cabin in the woods, and Haley is sent to stay with her for part of her recuperation. Grandma had always seemed a bit odd, but Haley soon finds out that she hasn’t guessed the half of it: not only is Grandma a witch, but she’s nearly four hundred years old! And the stream that runs alongside her cabin is the runoff of a sacred well. Has Haley gone off her rocker? Even if so, she won’t want for company. Her mother has a sixth sense that allows her to see into the future (as does Haley). Her neighbor Elizabeth Powell is a genteel ex-CIA agent who carries a Luger and speaks in a secret language (“Zammish”) to her friend Letty Horgan (who may also be a witch). There are other typical small-town types in Mannville (village idiot Frankie Grunveldt; Haley’s hunky sweetheart, Adam Schumacher), but they fade toward the background once Haley gets initiated into the craft and sets herself up as an occult healer. Eventually, she comes to see that the real world and the hidden one can coexist peacefully, and she settles down to a happy albeit somewhat odd domesticity with the birth of her son—who certainly has an interesting life ahead of him.

An appealing and original story that gets bogged down in its own originality: it would have worked better had the author pulled out fewer stops.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-621136-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Morrison traces the shifting shapes of suffering and mythic accommodations, through the shell of psychosis to the core of a...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

BELOVED

Morrison's truly majestic fifth novel—strong and intricate in craft; devastating in impact.

Set in post-Civil War Ohio, this is the story of how former slaves, psychically crippled by years of outrage to their bodies and their humanity, attempt to "beat back the past," while the ghosts and wounds of that past ravage the present. The Ohio house where Sethe and her second daughter, 10-year-old Denver, live in 1873 is "spiteful. Full of a [dead] baby's venom." Sethe's mother-in-law, a good woman who preached freedom to slave minds, has died grieving. It was she who nursed Sethe, the runaway—near death with a newborn—and gave her a brief spell of contentment when Sethe was reunited with her two boys and first baby daughter. But the boys have by now run off, scared, and the murdered first daughter "has palsied the house" with rage. Then to the possessed house comes Paul D., one of the "Pauls" who, along with Sethe, had been a slave on the "Sweet Home" plantation under two owners—one "enlightened," one vicious. (But was there much difference between them?) Sethe will honor Paul D.'s humiliated manhood; Paul D. will banish Sethe's ghost, and hear her stories from the past. But the one story she does not tell him will later drive him away—as it drove away her boys, and as it drove away the neighbors. Before he leaves, Paul D. will be baffled and anxious about Sethe's devotion to the strange, scattered and beautiful lost girl, "Beloved." Then, isolated and alone together for years, the three women will cling to one another as mother, daughter, and sister—found at last and redeemed. Finally, the ex-slave community, rebuilding on ashes, will intervene, and Beloved's tortured vision of a mother's love—refracted through a short nightmare life—will end with her death.

Morrison traces the shifting shapes of suffering and mythic accommodations, through the shell of psychosis to the core of a victim's dark violence, with a lyrical insistence and a clear sense of the time when a beleaguered peoples' "only grace...was the grace they could imagine."

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 1987

ISBN: 9781400033416

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1987

Did you like this book?

A nervy modern-day rebellion tale that isn’t afraid to get dark or find humor in the darkness.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018

  • New York Times Bestseller

MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION

A young New York woman figures there’s nothing wrong with existence that a fistful of prescriptions and months of napping wouldn’t fix.

Moshfegh’s prickly fourth book (Homesick for Another World, 2017, etc.) is narrated by an unnamed woman who’s decided to spend a year “hibernating.” She has a few conventional grief issues. (Her parents are both dead, and they’re much on her mind.) And if she’s not mentally ill, she’s certainly severely maladjusted socially. (She quits her job at an art gallery in obnoxious, scatological fashion.) But Moshfegh isn’t interested in grief or mental illness per se. Instead, she means to explore whether there are paths to living that don’t involve traditional (and wearying) habits of consumption, production, and relationships. To highlight that point, most of the people in the narrator's life are offbeat or provisional figures: Reva, her well-meaning but shallow former classmate; Trevor, a boyfriend who only pursues her when he’s on the rebound; and Dr. Tuttle, a wildly incompetent doctor who freely gives random pill samples and presses one drug, Infermiterol, that produces three-day blackouts. None of which is the stuff of comedy. But Moshfegh has a keen sense of everyday absurdities, a deadpan delivery, and such a well-honed sense of irony that the narrator’s predicament never feels tragic; this may be the finest existential novel not written by a French author. (Recovering from one blackout, the narrator thinks, “What had I done? Spent a spa day then gone out clubbing?...Had Reva convinced me to go ‘enjoy myself’ or something just as idiotic?”) Checking out of society the way the narrator does isn’t advisable, but there’s still a peculiar kind of uplift to the story in how it urges second-guessing the nature of our attachments while revealing how hard it is to break them.

A nervy modern-day rebellion tale that isn’t afraid to get dark or find humor in the darkness.

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52211-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

more