The talking cure has come almost too late for the oddly prim ex-sailor and his family. There is nothing to involve the...

THE LAST GIFT

An immigrant father’s silence about his background roils the life of his family in England; in this awkward eighth novel, Gurnah (Desertion, 2005, etc.), a Briton of Zanzibari descent, revisits the theme of alienation.

It was almost love at first sight. In 1974, they were working in the same factory in the English town of Exeter. Maryam was 17; Abbas was 34. Maryam was a dark-complected foundling, abandoned outside a hospital. Her foster parents, Indian immigrants, after some initial kindness, began treating her like a slave, so it was an easy decision to elope with Abbas, though she knew virtually nothing about him. He proves a good husband, and they have two children, Hanna and Jamal. Though he is loving with them too, Abbas never opens up about his background, and this becomes a source of frustration for Maryam and the kids. Who is this gentle, withdrawn man? He was born in Zanzibar. His family were Indian Muslims, dirt poor. His father, a subsistence farmer, was a tyrant, but Abbas escaped to a teacher training college. A bright future was doomed when he was tricked into an arranged marriage; his bride was already pregnant. At 19, Abbas fled Zanzibar and became a sailor for 15 years before settling in England. It is his irrational shame at abandoning his deceitful wife that has kept his lips sealed. The novel begins with the 62-year-old Abbas collapsing at home: It’s the first of three strokes. Maryam pressures him to tape-record his memories. Gurnah moves jarringly between past and present, in which the grown children, better at life than their parents, are discovering sex and confronting racism. More damagingly, the author disregards fiction’s first commandment: Show, don’t tell. So the family stays out of focus, less a unit than four individuals struggling with their own destinies.

The talking cure has come almost too late for the oddly prim ex-sailor and his family. There is nothing to involve the reader in this protagonist’s dilemma.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-62040-328-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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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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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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