HEARTS IN ATLANTIS

King's fat new work impressively follows his general literary upgrading begun with Bag of Bones (1998) and settles readers onto the seabottom of one of his most satisfying ideas ever. Set in fictional Harwich and semifictional Bridgeport, the story weaves five Vietnam-haunted small-town New England stories into a deeply moving overall vision. The five are: "Low Men in Yellow Coats," set in 1960 and at about 250 pages the longest; "Hearts in Atlantis," set in 1966; "Blind Willie," set in 1983; "Why We're in Vietnam" and "Heavenly Shades of Night Are Failing," both set in 1999. The umbrella title fits well, with King showing us the lost, time-sunken continent of the late Eisenhower era, as hearts from the deep sea of that Hopperesque time slowly rise to the tormented surface of the present-day. Whether his characters are stock or not, it's impossible not to enjoy King's gentle ways of fleshing them out, all the old bad habits and mannerisms gone as he draws you into the most richly serious work of his career. Elderly Ted Brautigan, who may seem a bit like Max von Sydow, moves into a house occupied by Bobby Garfield, age 11, and his hard-bitten mother, Liz, a secretary for real-estate agent Don Biderman, with whom she's having an unhappy affair. Brautigan hires Bobby to read the paper aloud, gives him Lord of the Flies—and also strange warnings about low men in yellow coats and posters about lost dogs. Report any sighting of these! Ted also has attacks of parrot pupilitis, the pupils opening and closing as he stares at other worlds. Although some characters wander in from King's inferior occult Western Dark Tower series, their cartoony, computer-graphic effects making them seem in the wrong novel, this minor lapse fades before King's memory-symphony of America during Vietnam. Page after page, a truly mature King does everything right and deserves some kind of literary rosette. His masterpiece.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 1999

ISBN: 0-684-85351-5

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2000

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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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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