To Err Is Divine by Agota Bozai
She can't hide her light under a bushel
A review by Ron Charles
Although three-fourths of Americans believe prayer can cure the terminally ill, the subject is still treated in the popular press as a kind of curiosity, a good cover story on slow news weeks. These stories -- you've seen them in Time, Reader's Digest, Newsweek, and any number of women's magazines -- suffer from redundancy that would test the patience of Job. They always begin with an anecdote of some remarkable recovery that stumped the doctors. Then we get a few quotations from mind-body specialists at the Harvard Medical School and references to studies which have shown that religious...
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
No Place Like Home
A review by Jonathan Yardley
Toibin is an immensely gifted and accomplished writer who has covered a remarkable range of subjects from Henry James (in his novel The Master) to homosexuality (in Love in a Dark Time: Gay Lives from Wilde to Almodovar), so it comes as no surprise that Brooklyn is intelligent and affecting. What may surprise American readers, however, is how confidently familiar Toibin seems to be with New York City during the early 1950s, the period in which the novel is set. To be sure, he has had occasional teaching engagements in New York (and in Washington and Princeton as well), but they are unlikely...
Saints at the River by Ron Rash
Ron Rash's Water World
A review by Anna Godbersen
Ron Rash's novels tend to feature complex situations following a death, and dramatic water. His debut, One Foot in Eden, centered on the aftermath of a man's disappearance from an Appalachian valley town soon to be flooded by a power company. The circumstances of his death unfurl in a cloud of adultery and southern gothic mystery. Saints at the River, Rash's second novel, begins with a simpler death-by-water, but soon evolves into a scandal fraught with moral ambiguity.
Maggie Glenn is a young newspaper photographer assigned to cover the drowning of a twelve-year-old girl in the Tamassee...
A Whistling Woman by A S Byatt
Frederica in wonderland
A review by Ron Charles
Fans of A.S. Byatt's fiction can be divided into two groups: Those who cannot understand her novels and those who lie. Even her most popular work, the Booker Prize-winning Possession, was demanding, and her previous novel, The Biographer's Tale, was downright baffling.
Her latest, A Whistling Woman, completes a tetralogy, meaning a fair number of us already feel intimidated. The series began 25 years ago with The Virgin in the Garden, which introduced Frederica Potter, then a precocious teenager. Now, three novels later, Frederica has abandoned her university post — driven away by self...
Sinners Welcome: Poems by Mary Karr
A review by Judith Kitchen
If you appreciated the irreverent voice of Mary Karr's The Liars' Club, you can find it again in "Facing Altars: Poetry and Prayer," the afterword to her fourth book of poems, Sinners Welcome. Chronicling a move from "undiluted agnosticism" to tempered Catholicism, Karr begins, "To confess my unlikely Catholicism in Poetry -- the journal that first published some of the godless twentieth-century disillusionaries of J. Alfred Prufrock and his pals -- feels like an act of perversion kinkier than any dildo-wielding dominatrix could manage on HBO's 'Real Sex Extra.' " But poetry, with its...
Night by Elie Wiesel
A Thousand Darknesses
A review by Ruth Franklin
Night is the most devastating account of the Holocaust that I have ever read. It is devastating first because of its simplicity. The basic outline is this: after the Germans invade Hungary in 1944, the teenaged Eliezer and his family, religious Jews who live comfortably in their community, are deported to Auschwitz. He and his father, separated from the rest of their family, are assigned to hard labor. As the last days of the war endlessly tick by, they survive transfers, work assignments, selections, illnesses, and all the other daily threats of life in the camp, while watching their friends ...