Intuitive, thoughtful writing in a shrewd revitalization tale.

SPARROW BEACH

A construction manager living on Long Island struggles to come to terms with change in his personal life and community in this novel.

Michael Dorian’s fortunes appear to be on the rise. Dorian Brothers Construction, the business that he manages with his sibling Willie, is landing ever larger contracts as wave after wave of gentrification buffets Long Island’s East End. Willie is a go-getter who studied business at college, drives a sports car, and seeks to forge a lucrative relationship with a wealthy New York developer. Michael, meanwhile, is an English literature graduate who returned home to help his brother build his business. Willie’s hunger frustrates him, and he much prefers to avoid fussy New York clients in favor of spending time with the workers. Michael’s home life is no less complicated. The novel opens with him sleeping separately from his wife, Vivvy, who has anxiety issues and is intent on building a new life for herself. Her plan for transformation involves her becoming gradually less involved with Michael and their teenage daughter, Tommy, an obsessive compulsive whose routine, troublemaking decisions often mean that she does not go to school. When Vivvy finally leaves Michael, he must take care of Tommy and also keep tabs on Willie, who proves to be far from a transparent business partner. Sparrow Beach is where Michael goes to surf and reflect, but this too is changing. This is a tale about two oppositional mindsets, those who are content with what they have and those who strive for more. Rich New York clients are depicted as “mini-empire builders, spreading their dominion from the city to the end of the island.” This situation poses a direct threat to the way of life of current East End residents, who brace themselves for the influx of wealthy newcomers and the price hikes that will follow. Michael’s position is a precarious one, because his construction company is involved in facilitating an alteration that will ultimately cause the East End to no longer feel like home. Raebeck (Louse Point, 2017) is skilled in communicating the characters’ complex connections to Long Island (Michael and his wife “both loved the land and seascapes of the East End, and Vivvy added something beyond that, something beautiful and complicated that countered the provincial, second fiddle feel of the place”). It is intriguing to see how this link evolves throughout the story, with certain players clinging nostalgically to their former lives while others aggressively seek out the new. Raebeck’s prose captures how individuals and communities react to change. This cannot be described as urgent writing, but its ambling pace should not be mistaken as bland. The author takes time to develop detailed psychological portraits of his characters to the point that the inner sources of their reactions become understandable, if not always admirable. The result is a clever and highly readable novel that examines the impact of gentrification on civic, familial, and personal levels.

Intuitive, thoughtful writing in a shrewd revitalization tale.

Pub Date: May 22, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64237-144-4

Page Count: 326

Publisher: Gatekeeper Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy,...

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME

Britisher Haddon debuts in the adult novel with the bittersweet tale of a 15-year-old autistic who’s also a math genius.

Christopher Boone has had some bad knocks: his mother has died (well, she went to the hospital and never came back), and soon after he found a neighbor’s dog on the front lawn, slain by a garden fork stuck through it. A teacher said that he should write something that he “would like to read himself”—and so he embarks on this book, a murder mystery that will reveal who killed Mrs. Shears’s dog. First off, though, is a night in jail for hitting the policeman who questions him about the dog (the cop made the mistake of grabbing the boy by the arm when he can’t stand to be touched—any more than he can stand the colors yellow or brown, or not knowing what’s going to happen next). Christopher’s father bails him out but forbids his doing any more “detecting” about the dog-murder. When Christopher disobeys (and writes about it in his book), a fight ensues and his father confiscates the book. In time, detective-Christopher finds it, along with certain other clues that reveal a very great deal indeed about his mother’s “death,” his father’s own part in it—and the murder of the dog. Calming himself by doing roots, cubes, prime numbers, and math problems in his head, Christopher runs away, braves a train-ride to London, and finds—his mother. How can this be? Read and see. Neither parent, if truth be told, is the least bit prepossessing or more than a cutout. Christopher, though, with pet rat Toby in his pocket and advanced “maths” in his head, is another matter indeed, and readers will cheer when, way precociously, he takes his A-level maths and does brilliantly.

A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy, moving, and likely to be a smash.

Pub Date: June 17, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50945-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

FIREFLY LANE

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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