An uneven road-trip tale that attempts to take readers straight to the heart of America.



In this debut novel, a lost man finds that the best way to get to the facts is through fiction.

Following college, Landfair’s unnamed narrator buys a motorcycle that he doesn’t quite know how to ride. He resolves to find himself by exploring his native land and learning about its character. However, neither his years as a benchwarmer for his college baseball team nor his ROTC training adequately prepare him for the harsh realities of life on the road. There are bitter winters to contend with, highway robberies, homelessness and all manner of other hardships. The protagonist’s impetus for his journey seems to stem from unfulfilled dreams of glory, and not from a deep-rooted desire to better understand the U.S. of A. Yet he rarely reexamines his quest, even when adversities mount. Although others might have turned back and sought comfort with friends and family, he presses on, eager for the next adventure. Along the way, he picks up odd jobs—as everything from a community organizer to a building superintendent—to pay his way. But his real payment comes in the form of stories that people tell him. When he crosses paths with Sam, a carnival operator and consummate showman, he begins to nurture his own knack for storytelling. Suddenly, the yarns he spins help him find his way into the good graces of those he meets during his travels. He learns to adapt his own experiences and those of others into larger-than-life legends, and before long, he’s selling out venues as a bona fide American hero—a Daniel Boone, of sorts. Throughout, Landfair’s evocative prose places the reader on the seemingly endless highways and byways of our expansive country (“Cars sped past on either side—blurs of headlights and turn signals”). However, for all of its focus on trying to understand the American spirit, the novel fails to divulge very much information about its main character. Readers know that he’s on a quest, but it remains unclear what his real motivations are. Although readers spend a lot of time with him, they’re always riding shotgun, never really getting a peek below the surface. Intriguingly, the story’s trajectory is eastward, reversing the usual trend for this type of road story, but in the end, its resolution is no surprise.

An uneven road-trip tale that attempts to take readers straight to the heart of America.

Pub Date: June 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-1940500355

Page Count: 204

Publisher: Harbinger Book Group

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2014

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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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A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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