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    Monday, November 28, 2022

    Tipping Point: Our picks and pans


    The Foundling

    Ann Leary

    I almost wish this had been a nonfiction work instead of a novel. Author Ann Leary was looking into her family history when she discovered her grandmother was a stenographer at the Laurelton State Village for Feeble-Minded Women of Childbearing Age in Pennsylvania during the 1930s. She researched these type of institutions, where women who were deemed “mentally or morally defective” were confined. That might mean they were single but sexually active. Or maybe they were arrested at a speakeasy or were a lesbian. The fictional version of “The Foundling” is fine — even if the writing is a bit prosaic, the narrative moves right along — but I kept wondering what in “The Foundling” was true and what was an invention. Here’s the tale: In the late 1920s, Mary Engle is an 18-year-old orphan who becomes a secretary at institution for women who are (supposedly) mentally disabled. The inmates work, with the institution reaping the profits, and Mary very slowly becomes suspicious, especially after she sees an inmate who, it turns out, she knew from when they were at the same orphanage.

    – Kristina Dorsey

    Book tip

    Fairy Tale

    Stephen King

    Two of Big Steve’s reliable plot devices are in play in this novel. First, there’s the portal-to-another-world construct, excellently employed in, for a few examples, “11/22/63,” “”From a Buick 8,“ ”Black House“ (with the late Peter Straub) and the ”Dark Tower“ series. He’s also really good with the ”odd old guy who mentors a younger person and ultimately shares a secret“ storyline – ”The Shining,“ ”Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,“ ”Hearts in Atlantis“ and even ”Pet Sematary.“ Both these narrative tools are at play in what is indeed a fine and creative fairy tale – or, more properly, a fairy TAIL inasmuch as the main reason 17-year-old Charlie heads to another world beneath the earth is to save a much loved dog named Radar. Irresistible, big fun.

    – Rick Koster


    See How They Run

    This is a diverting film — a modern, comic taken on an old-school mystery. It’s all very knowing, commenting on how Agatha Christie-style stories unfold while tweaking the traditional tropes. Adrien Brody, having a helluva good time, plays an egomaniacal director who wants to helm the movie version of Christie’s “The Mousetrap,” which is playing onstage in London. He gets murdered during the early part of the story. Whodunnit? There are so many suspects, naturally. Is it the writer (David Oyelowo)? The grande-dame producer (Ruth Wilson)? Called in to investigate are a world-weary inspector (an underwhelming Sam Rockwell, who plays the character as just plain weary) and a bright-eyed, enthusiastic newbie (an effective Saoirse Ronan).

    – Kristina Dorsey

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