By JOSH EMMONS Beth Perry MICHELLE GREEN
November 16, 2009 12:00 PM

Under the Dome

by Stephen King |

REVIEWED BY JOSH EMMONS

NOVEL

One fine day an enormous, invisible and indestructible dome is slapped over a small Maine town called Chester’s Mill, trapping its residents in and keeping the world out. No one knows why or how, but it soon becomes apparent that the townspeople face a raft of frightening problems, such as a limited supply of food, electricity and oxygen. Will they band together to devise a solution, or will greed and fear doom them all? Welcome to Stephen King’s latest behemoth, a 1,072-page answer to that question and a clever blend of Lord of the Flies, Malthus, Machiavelli and Lost. As you might expect, in the wake of this strange (military? magical? alien?) disaster, the forces of good and evil quickly separate and face off. Leading one side is Dale “Barbie” Barbara, an Iraq War veteran whose commitment to law, order and justice is unshakable; leading the other is Big Jim Rennie, a nefarious politician who sees an opportunity to turn the town into his own private fiefdom. Under the Dome features many Kingian trademarks—sharp and complicated characters, captivating violence, a generous storytelling voice—and although it lacks the power and strangeness of works like It and The Shining, it is still a wildly entertaining trip.

A Friend of the Family

by Lauren Grodstein |

REVIEWED BY BETH PERRY

NOVEL

After 17-year-old Laura Stern gives birth in a public bathroom, her small-town neighbors wonder whether to believe the rumor that the baby was stillborn. Years later, when Laura returns home and sets her sights on the son of a local doctor, old wounds are reopened and both families torn apart. The flashbacks are dizzying, but Grodstein’s harsh, honest prose makes this haunting tale worthwhile.

Lit

by Mary Karr |

REVIEWED BY MICHELLE GREEN

MEMOIR

In her memoirs The Liars’ Club and Cherry, Karr dazzled with perversely hilarious accounts of her hellacious Texas upbringing. Here she examines the fallout from those years. As a new mom she leans on Jack Daniels; as her marriage collapses, she aims for the depths: “You smell like a bum,” her blueblood husband sneers after a bender. Karr movingly depicts her halting journey into AA, making it clear her grit and spirit remain intact. Even now, she says, “on a crowded subway, I still pine for a firearm some days.”

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