Erudite. Imaginative. A work to be read slowly and savored.

MR. ETERNITY

Thier (The Ghost Apple, 2014) sends Daniel Defoe, a 560-year-old Spaniard, wandering across centuries as the world wages wars, civilizations are raped, and human societies are swamped by global warming.

A simple fellow who tells folks that the secret to eternal life is not dying, Defoe lives as a mirror rather than a narrative-driving hero. All he desires in his millennial-long quest is to find his true love, Anna Gloria, again. In 1560, Defoe joins explorers guided by a Pirahao aboriginal girl, trapped as a colonial mayor’s mistress, into Amazon-like wilds in search of treasure. In 1750, he becomes Dr. Dan on Little Salt, a Caribbean island, where John Green, a mulatto intent on passing as white, lurks on a failed sugar plantation. In 2016, two young filmmakers, propelled by drugs and irony, set out to make a documentary about the ancient mariner. In 2200, Defoe becomes a guide to buried treasure, a roguish tale narrated in rambling Faulkner-ian exposition by a young fellow called Jam. In 2500, where once stood St. Louis, now land "hot enough to fry an ape," Defoe encounters Jasmine St. Roulette, daughter of the hereditary king and president of the Democratic Federation of Mississippi States. The tales explore the ugliness of slavery, the genocide of aboriginal peoples, and the ubiquity of greed. Throughout, Thier riffs on multiple themes: the evolution of history from fact to legend—"imagination and memory were all confounded one with the other"; how language constructs reality; and how, as the protagonists in our own stories, we "struggle with the meaning of story." With symbolism and analogy, surrealism and fantasy, Thier deftly reflects on and explores the human condition through "the lavender light and sweet scented dust of history."

Erudite. Imaginative. A work to be read slowly and savored.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63286-093-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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