Vividly detailed, a florid fantasy that suggests the miraculous potential of hope and love in the midst of perpetual war.

A TALE OF THE DISPOSSESSED

The fourth from Colombian Restrepo (The Dark Bride, 2002, etc.) traces an unlikely romance between a displaced man—raised in the hell of the country’s decades-long civil war—and an outsider.

The nameless narrator (presumably from the US) meets the man known as Three Sevens in the refugee shelter where she works. She is attracted to him, but he speaks only of a woman named Matilde Lina. The mysterious man, she learns, was born in 1950, in Santa Maria Bailarina, a village named after its patron saint, the Dancing Madonna. Found on the church steps, the infant had an extra toe (hence Three Sevens, after twenty-one digits), which signals something supernatural. He’s taken in by the village laundress Matilde Lina, and, after a massacre a few months later, the survivors take to the road, carrying the wooden sculpture of the Dancing Madonna with them for protection. The slow march lasts for years. “We were victims, but also executioners,” Three Sevens admits. He and his young adoptive mother are the only travelers who seem oblivious to the sufferings of hunger, fear, and cold nights. When he is 13, the two are separated during an ambush, and, putting the Madonna in his backpack, he begins a lifelong search for the only woman he has ever loved. Years later, in the oil city of Tora, he’s caught up in a riot, tear-gassed, beaten, labeled an instigator, and accused of stealing the Madonna, a valuable colonial relic. Still seeking Matilde Lina, Three Sevens finds a refugee shelter run by French nuns high in the mountains above Tora—a place on “the other side of reality.” There, the Dancing Madonna, disguised in a new mantle, is restored to dignity, and Three Sevens, after nearly fifty years, has a chance at redemption and love.

Vividly detailed, a florid fantasy that suggests the miraculous potential of hope and love in the midst of perpetual war.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2004

ISBN: 0-06-072370-X

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2004

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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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A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS

The story of the entangled affairs of a group of exceedingly smart and self-possessed creative types.

Frances, an aloof and intelligent 21-year-old living in Dublin, is an aspiring poet and communist. She performs her spoken-word pieces with her best friend and ex-lover, Bobbi, who is equally intellectual but gregarious where Frances is shy and composed where Frances is awkward. When Melissa, a notable writer and photographer, approaches the pair to offer to do a profile of them, they accept excitedly. While Bobbi is taken with Melissa, Frances becomes infatuated by her life—her success, her beautiful home, her actor husband, Nick. Nick is handsome and mysterious and, it turns out, returns Frances’ attraction. Although he can sometimes be withholding of his affection (he struggles with depression), they begin a passionate affair. Frances and Nick’s relationship makes difficult the already tense (for its intensity) relationship between Frances and Bobbi. In the midst of this complicated dynamic, Frances is also managing endometriosis and neglectful parents—an abusive, alcoholic father and complicit mother. As a narrator, Frances describes all these complex fragments in an ethereal and thoughtful but self-loathing way. Rooney captures the mood and voice of contemporary women and their interpersonal connections and concerns without being remotely predictable. In her debut novel, she deftly illustrates psychology’s first lesson: that everyone is doomed to repeat their patterns.

A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-451-49905-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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