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Harvey Freedenberg

Biography

Harvey Freedenberg


Harvey Freedenberg practiced intellectual property law and litigation with a large Harrisburg, Pennsylvania firm before he retired in 2017. He has been working as a freelance reviewer since 2005 and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. In addition to the more than 300 reviews he has written for Bookreporter.com since 2006, he writes for BookPageShelf Awareness and Kirkus Reviews. He also has published reviews and essays on a variety of other websites and literary blogs.

In 2000, Harvey took a six-month sabbatical from his law practice and studied creative writing at his alma mater, Dickinson College. Three of his short stories have won prizes, and he has written an as-yet-unpublished novel.

Harvey enjoys literary fiction and a wide range of nonfiction. His favorite authors are too numerous to mention, but include Richard Ford, Tim O’Brien, John Updike, Charles Baxter, John Cheever, Tracy Kidder and John McPhee. To read all of Harvey's reviews, along with his comments on the book world and assorted topics, follow him on Twitter (@HarvF) or friend him on Facebook.

Harvey Freedenberg

Reviews by Harvey Freedenberg

by Hilary Mantel - Fiction, Short Stories

Absorbing and evocative, these drawn-from-life stories by Hilary Mantel begin in the 1950s in an insular northern village “scoured by bitter winds and rough gossip tongues.” For the young narrator, the only way to survive is to get up, get on, get out. In “King Billy Is a Gentleman,” the child must come to terms with the loss of a father and the puzzle of a fading Irish heritage. “Curved Is the Line of Beauty" is a story of friendship, faith and a near-disaster in a scrap-yard. The title story sees our narrator ironing out her northern vowels with the help of an ex-actress with one lung and a Manchester accent. In “Third Floor Rising," she watches, amazed, as her mother carves out a stylish new identity.

by Ottessa Moshfegh - Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Little Marek, the abused and delusional son of the village shepherd, never knew his mother. One of life’s few consolations for Marek is his enduring bond with the blind village midwife, Ina, who suckled him when he was a baby. Ina’s gifts extend beyond childcare: she possesses a unique ability to communicate with the natural world. Her gift often brings her the transmission of sacred knowledge on levels far beyond those available to other villagers, however religious they might be. For some people, Ina’s home in the woods outside of the village is a place to fear and to avoid. By year’s end, the veil between blindness and sight, life and death, the natural world and the spirit world, will prove to be very thin indeed.

by Nell Zink - Fiction

Bran’s Southern California upbringing is anything but traditional. After her mother joins a Buddhist colony, Bran is raised by her “common-law stepfather” on Bourdon Farms --- a plant nursery that doubles as a cover for a biker gang. She spends her days tending plants, slogging through high school, and imagining what life could be if she had been born to a different family. And then she meets Peter, a beautiful, troubled and charming train wreck of a college student from the East Coast, who launches his teaching career by initiating her into the world of literature and aesthetics. As the two begin a volatile and ostensibly doomed long-distance relationship, Bran searches for meaning in her own surroundings.

by Ali Smith - Fiction, Women's Fiction

Following her astonishing Seasonal Quartet, award-winning author Ali Smith again lights a way for us through the nightmarish now with a provocative novel grounded both in the contemporary era and in the uncannily familiar era of the Black Plague. This is a vital celebration of companionship in all its timeless and present, legendary and unpindownable, spellbinding and shapeshifting forms.

by Brian Morton - Memoir, Nonfiction

Tasha Morton is a force of nature: a brilliant educator who’s left her mark on generations of students --- and also a whirlwind of a mother, intrusive, chaotic, oppressively devoted and irrepressible. For decades, her son Brian has kept her at a self-protective distance, but when her health begins to fail, he knows it’s time to assume responsibility for her care. Even so, he’s not prepared for what awaits him, as her refusal to accept her own fragility leads to a series of epic outbursts and altercations that are sometimes frightening, sometimes wildly comic, and sometimes both.

by Anna Quindlen - Inspirational, Motivational, Nonfiction, Personal Growth, Writing

What really matters in life? What truly lasts in our hearts and minds? Where can we find community, history, humanity? In WRITE FOR YOUR LIFE, the answer is clear: through writing. This is a book for what Anna Quindlen calls “civilians,” those who want to use the written word to become more human, more themselves. It argues that there has never been a more important time to stop and record what we are thinking and feeling. Using examples from past, present and future --- from Anne Frank to Toni Morrison, from love letters written after World War II to journal reflections from nurses and doctors today --- WRITE FOR YOUR LIFE vividly illuminates the ways in which writing connects us to ourselves and to those we cherish.

by Anne Tyler - Fiction, Women's Fiction

The Garretts take their first and last family vacation in the summer of 1959. They hardly ever leave home, but in some ways they have never been farther apart. Mercy has trouble resisting the siren call of her aspirations to be a painter, which means less time keeping house for her husband, Robin. Their teenage daughters, steady Alice and boy-crazy Lily, could not have less in common. Their youngest, David, is already intent on escaping his family's orbit, for reasons none of them understand. Yet, as these lives advance across decades, the Garretts' influences on one another ripple ineffably but unmistakably through each generation.

by Stewart O'Nan - Fiction

In the first line of OCEAN STATE, we learn that a high school student was murdered, and we find out who did it. The story that unfolds from there is thus one of the build-up to and fallout from the murder, told through the alternating perspectives of the four women at its heart. Angel, the murderer; Carol, her mother; and Birdy; the victim all converge in a climax both tragic and inevitable. Watching over it all is the retrospective testimony of Angel’s younger sister Marie, who reflects on that doomed autumn of 2009 with all the wisdom of hindsight. Angel and Birdy love the same teenage boy and are compelled by the intensity of their feelings to extremes neither could have anticipated.

by Roddy Doyle - Fiction, Short Stories

Love and marriage. Children and family. Death and grief. Life touches everyone the same. But living under lockdown, it changes us alone. In these 10 beautifully moving short stories written mostly over the last year, Booker Prize winner Roddy Doyle paints a collective portrait of our strange times. A man abroad wanders the stag-and-hen-strewn streets of Newcastle, as news of the virus at home asks him to question his next move. An exhausted nurse struggles to let go, having lost a much-loved patient in isolation. A middle-aged son, barred from his mother’s funeral, wakes to an oncoming hangover of regret.

by Rebecca Mead - Memoir, Nonfiction

When New Yorker writer Rebecca Mead relocated to her birth city of London with her family in the summer of 2018, she was both fleeing the political situation in America and seeking to expose her son to a wider world. With a keen sense of what she’d given up as she left New York, her home of 30 years, she tried to knit herself into the fabric of a changed London. The move raised poignant questions about place: What does it mean to leave the place you have adopted as home and country? And what is the value and cost of uprooting yourself? In HOME/LAND, Mead artfully explores themes of identity, nationality and inheritance.