Related Subjects: Author Index
Book reviews for "McFarland,_Dennis" sorted by average review score:

Singing Boy
Published in Paperback by Picador USA (2003)
Author: Dennis McFarland
Amazon base price: $13.00
Average review score:

A Touching Story
This is a soul-stirring narrative of death,loss and grief.Malcolm is shot and killed on the way home from an awards'dinner.Sara,his wife and Harry,his son, witness the shooting.The story develops around their dealing with this tragedy. Deckard,who was Malcolm's best friend,tries to help Sara and Harry with their grieving. He is facing his own demons from Vietnam,and Malcolm's death has caused a resurgence of buried memories. Sara becomes lost in her own world of the pain of loss and is unable to help seven year old Harry,who becomes withdrawn as his way of facing his father's death.Deckard works with Harry, trying to be his surrogate father, but they all become sadly estranged, and each further escapes into their own world of suffering. There is finally a break-through that reunites them and breaks down the barriers of sorrow that caused the seperation. If you have ever experienced a loss, this book shows the variances of grief that you will well be familiar with. If you have not, you will learn that grief holds no patterns. Dennis McFarland has demonstrated this so well in this thoughtfully written book.

As his debut novel, The Music Room (1990), garnered both critical and popular acclaim, Dennis McFarland soon found himself named among America's premier wordsmiths. His next two novels, most notably School For The Blind (1994), ensured his standing.

Readers anticipate this author's supple, compelling prose. Such expectations are fulfilled with Singing Boy, a poignant exposition of grief in which Mr. McFarland again touches upon his recurring themes of death, forgiveness, and the mercy of time.

Following a dinner at which he has been honored, Malcolm Vaughn, with his wife, Sarah, and Harry, their eight-year-old son, is driving home through a quiet Massachusetts night. Malcolm's attention is caught by an old Corvair blocking their passage through an intersection. When he goes to investigate, he is shot and killed by the Corvair's driver, a stranger. Harry watches as his father is slain, and Sarah cradles her husband as he bleeds to death on the street.

Upon arriving at the hospital, Sarah calls Deckard Jones, a black Vietnam war veteran, who is Malcolm's best friend. Deck, as he is called, is approaching fifty. He has spent time in a detox unit, is haunted by the horrors of wartime carnage, and has recently lost his girlfriend. His life, it seems, is going fast but headed nowhere.

"Spontaneous murder," according to the police, is the classification for Malcolm's death. However, this is not the story of a crime but a powerful tale of how three bereaved souls respond to tragedy. Each retreats in a different way, unable to contemplate let alone cope with their shock and grief.

Sarah, a chemical engineer, is immobilized, incapable of decision making, unable to offer Harry parental affirmation, even a modicum of guidance.

Of Sarah Mr. McFarland writes, "No one will understand that her grief is what she has left of him, and if she were to lose that, she would have nothing at all."

Young Harry conceals his trauma behind a mask of normalcy - he doesn't cry, he speaks politely when spoken to, reiterating that he is fine.

In analyzing Harry's behavior, Deckard concludes, "There was something too smooth about it, too business-as-usual, too no-problem."

Confronted with a grieving Sarah whom he is trying to nudge in a "back-to-normal direction" and a child who seems so extremely normal that it's worrisome, Deckard assumes the role of protector, repressing his mourning for a friend's death until personal crises threaten to pull him under.

Related with truthfulness and compassion the struggles of three people become a reflection of our own periods of loss. Many can relate to the words Harry utters as an adult: he remembers the summer of his father's death as a time when "he'd learned the word 'inconsolable,' and what a deep deep well of a word it was."

Mr. McFarland has said that in this story he wanted to honor Sarah's "right to be inconsolable, her right for claiming as much time for grieving as she needed......I wanted to show that it's impossible to shape and pace grief through an effort of will."

He has accomplished this with with grace and beauty. For this we are grateful.

"Singing Boy" is written with poetic sensibility and a master's touch. Beautifully depicting the pain and heartbreak that takes place when a spouse is violently murdered, and the sorrowful aftermath. The police have no leads, and the widow and her young son are left to wonder why...and to try to pick up the pieces of their lives and go on. Dennis McFarland handles this topic with grace and insight, giving us a wonderful novel. I recommend this book!

School for the Blind
Published in Hardcover by Houghton Mifflin Co (1994)
Author: Dennis McFarland
Amazon base price: $21.95
Used price: $0.05
Collectible price: $1.07
Buy one from zShops for: $0.24
Average review score:

Complex and moving
I have read and re-read this book. I have also recommended it to others, and everyone has liked it! The characterizations are so good, and the ending is quietly hopeful. The reader can really enjoy Muriel and Brimm as they confront how they have dealt with their dark childhood and try to grow beyond it, even as they face Brimm's death. I really like the way they struggle to acknowledge painful events and learn from them -- but still not let themselves be completely defined by them. The murder mystery -- I really haven't been able to grasp how that ties in with the rest of the story; it seems tacked on and out of tempo with a self-exploratory novel, but it does fit in with the emotional timbre of the book. Also, involvement in the mystery does give Muriel a chance to be active in the present and to impact her community in a positive way, as she contributes to finding the serial killer.

I loved this novel
This is wonderful, knowing book. I loved reading it and have returned to re-read much of it again and again.

A story told in multilple layers
School for the Blind is a great book, a cut above the rest. I read this book when it was first published and still recommend it. It is the story of an elderly brother and sister, one who is dying and the other who lives a dull, resentful life. Both have spent their lives running away from their painful past in different ways. They have come to a point where they have to face these painful secrets and at the same learn how to grow old with their family history. Into their lives comes a young woman, confident, pregnant and alone, she is the breath of life that they have denied themselves for so long. Add to this the shocking murder of two high school students at the local school for the blind, an investigation, threatening phone calls and you have a suspenseful good read. Intense and heartfelt at the same time, this is one of those stories that I'll never forget. I loved this book.

Triazine Herbicides: Risk Assessment (Acs Symposium Series, No 683)
Published in Hardcover by American Chemical Society (1998)
Authors: Larry G. Ballantine, Janis E. McFarland, and Dennis S. Hackett
Amazon base price: $145.00
Used price: $45.50
Buy one from zShops for: $115.99
Average review score:

Triazine Herbicides Risk Assessment
This book is full of useful information on triazine herbicides ranging from an article about the assessment of different climate patterns and soil types for atrazine movement to groundwater to an article about the role of Fisher 344 vs. Sprague-Dawley rats' reproductive patterns in the appearance of mammary tumors. Unfortunately, over half of the citations for the toxicological studies were from sources that were not peer reviewed. Furthermore, an odd citation style was used for many chapters in which the article title was not included in the citation. The book is clearly from a pro-pesticide use position, especially indicative in the first section on economics. However, setting this bias caveat aside, the book is an achievement in putting together many pieces in the triazine herbicide story: its history and use in agriculture; its water contamination routes and degradation products, its metabolites in aquatic organisms, animals and humans; and its possible impact to those exposed.

The Music Room
Published in Audio Cassette by HarperAudio (1991)
Author: Dennis McFarland
Amazon base price: $15.95
Used price: $4.31
Collectible price: $12.50
Buy one from zShops for: $11.95
Average review score:

Very disappointing.
I feel the novel was very overrated. Just simply plodded along. Boring.

Unrelentingly Dismal
Not just a flawed family, but a flawed narrative. The characters are so tedious and self-important that the book was slow torture to read. Because of the complete lack of sympathy that the characters evoke, when the many bad things happen in this novel, I just didn't care. A tedious novel.

A Sombre and Thought Provoking Read
In his trademark casually eloquent style McFarland takes us deep into the story. While the protagonist fights with his own emotions over his brother's sudden death, he finds himself thrust into an unknown world. Having to now deal with dysfunctional family members, he finds himself unable to heal and cannot avoid feelings of guilt and remorse.

While not without it's flaws, like the implausible all too simple liquidation of our main character's business interests, the story is still strong.

Read it and reflect.

A Face at the Window
Published in Paperback by Bantam Doubleday Dell Pub (Trd Pap) (1998)
Author: Dennis McFarland
Amazon base price: $13.00
Used price: $2.14
Collectible price: $2.15
Buy one from zShops for: $5.98
Average review score:

Definately not a book i would recommend...
The book was very boring in the beginning, but I thought it might get better in the middle so I read the first 100 pages. It started to pick up a little so I figured, "okay, I'll just keep reading." It never really picked up after that. It would talk about the ghosts for a few pages, then it would stop and go on to the guy's life, then go back to the ghosts. Back and forth from there. For scariness, it wasnt at all...just mysterious. Even at the end, it never really explains it. This book is definately for a person with a great vocabulary because I even had trouble understanding some of the words. If you have 300 pages worth of time to kill, you might want to read it just to say you read a Dennis McFarland book, but if you are expecting to be scared or interested, you won't want to read it. Sorry, but that's just my opinion. I am very picky about books and movies, so if I say a book or a movie is good, IT IS GOOD! My favorite book is Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix. It is the best book ever written, I think, and it is a book for all ages. Not too kiddy for adults, and not to adult for kids. Just perfect. The sequels are: Among the Impostors and Among the Betrayed. These are also a good, fun read. DEFINATELY READ IT! Well, I'm off for now. Until I read again...

A chilling effect and a unique plot
I found myself really getting to know the characters and I loved the little boy in the story. I remember staying up late immersed in a part of the book where the main character has another encounter with the ghost world. During this part of the book, he is very out of touch with reality, and after I finished reading it I realized I was in the same disoriented state. This book is very unique, because it is not your normal ghost story. It combines the life stories of people who lived many years ago with a person who lives in today's world. Even if you don't normally read ghost stories (I normally don't), you would probably not be able to put this book down! I definately wasn't able to.

A Spine-Tingling Suspense Story
This book had me on the edge my seat until the very last page, where I still sat begging for more. It is not the typical ghost story, because it combines the story of the ghosts extrodanarily well with the real main character'severyday life. Dennis McFarland did a fantastic job of developing his characters and holding his reader's suspense. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time, and I strongly recommend it to fiction readers of all kinds

Related Subjects: Author Index

Reviews are from readers at To add a review, follow the Amazon buy link above.