OPERATION WANDERING SOUL

Childhood innocence—imperiled through the ages and nowhere more at risk than in the heart of modern Los Angeles—stands as the imposing theme of Powers's latest complex, wrenching saga. As overwhelming and erudite as its acclaimed predecessor, The Gold Bug Variations (1991), here evidence of children at odds with the adult world in which they live abounds, from the legend of the Pied Piper to tragic details of the Children's Crusade to more recent obliterations of youthful dreams in Southeast Asia and Watts. Holding this savage, sorrowful indictment of post-adolescent behavior together is the tale of a pediatrics ward in an inner-city hospital, into which the world's indigent wounded are thrown with abandon. Cared for by a fiercely protective therapist and a sensitive surgical resident—themselves careworn and devastated by traumas of youth, but seeking redemption—the ward acquires a life and plan of its own when Joy, a Laotian boat girl whose ravenous appetite for knowledge cannot stave off the rot consuming her from the ankles up, and Nicolino, a street-wise, shrewd trader in comics and other commodities wizened well before his time by Methuselah Syndrome, take the situation in hand. Using a ward-wide production of the Pied Piper story presented to the outside world as their means, they plot a mass escape in order to become masters of their own fates—but their designs for liberation falter before the realities of disease and adult agendas. Mingling wisps of whimsy and a hard-edged, surgical view, this cuts deeply into the human condition—to a dark, profoundly troubled place where hope and despair exist side by side.

Pub Date: May 18, 1993

ISBN: 0-688-11548-9

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1993

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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