A rich, deeply felt novel about family ties, immigration, sexual longing, faith, and desire. Simultaneously raw and luminous.

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FIEBRE TROPICAL

In U.S.–based Colombian author Delgado Lopera's coming-of-age novel, a 15-year-old Colombian girl struggles with her identity and her burgeoning sexuality.

Dragged unwillingly from Bogotá to Miami, crammed with her mother and sister into her grandmother's apartment at the Heather Glen Apartment Complex, Francisca misses her friends and her former life. But she can't go home, because "this wasn't a Choose Your Own Migration multiple-choice adventure." In a scene early in the book, her mother insists on baptizing a child she miscarried 17 years before, using a plastic doll from a discount store as a stand-in baby. Manic one moment and sad the next, Mami has joined the Iglesia Cristiana Jesucristo Redentor, an evangelical Colombian church in "a stinky room in the Hyatt Hotel nobody cared to vacuum." In the car on their way there, the doll stares at Francisca with a fixed, plastic smile. "Are you happy now, asshole, I wanted to say....You're still dead, pendejo." With a whip-smart, unapologetic voice peppered with Colombian slang, Francisca pulls us into her new life in "Yanquilandia." Trouble arises when she meets Carmen the pastor's daughter, who wants her to accept Jesus into her heart. Francisca imagines God in "a dentist's waiting room checking in with the receptionist every so often, Did Francisca receive my son in her heart yet? (said no God ever)." Instead, she finds herself falling in love with Carmen, threatening her family's tenuous place in the immigrant community. Though the plot revolves around a coming-out story, the great strength of Delgado Lopera's writing lies in its layered portrayals of these characters and their world. "Women in my family possessed a sixth sense...from the close policing of our sadness: Your tristeza wasn't yours, it was part of the larger collective female sadness jar to which we all contributed."

A rich, deeply felt novel about family ties, immigration, sexual longing, faith, and desire. Simultaneously raw and luminous.

Pub Date: March 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-936932-75-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Feminist Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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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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