AT WEDDINGS AND WAKES

Following the author's splendid That Night (1987), this remarkable novel—about the temper and times of an Irish-American family in 1950's Long Island and Brooklyn—firmly establishes McDermott as a writer of major talent. Like Anglo-Irish novelist William Trevor, McDermott plots the touching dignity of ordinary lives pursued on the crest of inevitable sadness. Outside the wedding hall awaits the summons to the wake. Three school-age Dailey children—earnestly watching, like young animals training for survival in the snug safety of adult regimens—dutifully follow their mother Lucy on the summer treks from Long Island to Brooklyn—from the bus stop where Lucy is aware of her ``stunned hopelessness'' to the exciting trip through the subway cars and Lucy's leap, with the children, across the ``loud and dark and precarious distance'' of the coupled cars, toward home and her native Brooklyn. In the apartment (dark with boredom, tears, and doughty courage) are the aunts, Lucy's sisters: one defeated, one defiantly managing, and then May, simply loving. And there's also ``Momma,'' who emigrated from an Irish farm of mud and dirt, tended a dying sister and her four girls, married her sister's husband, and bore her own son, who now pays a (sober) ceremonial visit to his mother once a year at Christmas. Momma's anger has taken on fate. There are endless afternoons—the heavy meal, the cocktail hour, the quarrel time, weeping, and closed doors. But the ``merry fog'' of Christmas transforms the apartment, families, and life. For the Daileys there are the shore vacations for two weeks each year, when there is no past, with its ghosts and old hurts, but only a tender present. Then there's the wonderful day when May, the middle-aged ex-nun, is married—days before the fateful tap at the door of the seaside cottage. In translucent prose with rich recognitions, a fine novel of vigorous wisdom and heartbreaking humanity.

Pub Date: April 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-10674-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1992

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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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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