Irish newcomer Gough deftly captures the twins’ youthful awe and giddy excitement during their freshman year, and though the...

JUNO & JULIET

A smartly written, pleasantly conceived Irish variation on the girl-goes-to-college-and-comes-of-age story in which small-town twins learn to adore literature and the arts, fall in love, and through loss discover deeper truths.

The narrator, Juliet, considers her twin sister Juno unbelievably beautiful, smart, socially successful, and immeasurably confident, which makes a marked contrast to her own, muddled self-image. Together, they venture to Galway to attend college, and immediately are engrossed in campus life. Juno tackles acting and falls in love with Michael, an uneven, goodhearted student with whom the sisters share a residence. Juliet, meanwhile, is introduced to the edifying joys of literature, and though no specific books are mentioned, the tutorials of David Hennessey and his teaching style—Socratic hip, with a dose of irony—are evidently rapturous: Juliet falls hard for the dashingly romantic, inwardly sad instructor with a dying father. Meanwhile, the girls’ Christmas holiday demonstrates both how much and how little the two have changed, providing a few secondary characters against whom their collegiate arc may be measured. Later, David asks Juliet to join him on a boating trip to deliver groceries to his cancer-stricken father, but as her feelings deepen, he becomes more elusive. From David, Juliet learns some shaded secrets about Conrad, an alcoholic writer-in-residence with whom Juno has a flirtatious relation. On impulse, Juliet sleeps with Michael, and later Juno sleeps with Conrad. The sisters make up, and Juno discovers Conrad is responsible for the threatening, sexually violent letters that have been frightening her for weeks. David will join the sisters in confronting the sodden author.

Irish newcomer Gough deftly captures the twins’ youthful awe and giddy excitement during their freshman year, and though the plot ambles along fairly conventional paths, its course is stylistically nimble, intellectually unburdensome, and eminently companionable.

Pub Date: July 17, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-50172-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her...

BEFORE WE WERE YOURS

Avery Stafford, a lawyer, descendant of two prominent Southern families and daughter of a distinguished senator, discovers a family secret that alters her perspective on heritage.

Wingate (Sisters, 2016, etc.) shifts the story in her latest novel between present and past as Avery uncovers evidence that her Grandma Judy was a victim of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and is related to a woman Avery and her father meet when he visits a nursing home. Although Avery is living at home to help her parents through her father’s cancer treatment, she is also being groomed for her own political career. Readers learn that investigating her family’s past is not part of Avery's scripted existence, but Wingate's attempts to make her seem torn about this are never fully developed, and descriptions of her chemistry with a man she meets as she's searching are also unconvincing. Sections describing the real-life orphanage director Georgia Tann, who stole poor children, mistreated them, and placed them for adoption with wealthy clients—including Joan Crawford and June Allyson—are more vivid, as are passages about Grandma Judy and her siblings. Wingate’s fans and readers who enjoy family dramas will find enough to entertain them, and book clubs may enjoy dissecting the relationship and historical issues in the book.

Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her fictional characters' lives.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-425-28468-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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