A novel of few surprises, it must be seen for what it is: the uneven debut novel of a significant author with a growing...

BLUE WHITE RED

A coming-of-age story of immigration and disillusionment that begins in post-colonial Congo.

This first novel from Mabanckou (Memoirs of a Porcupine, 2012, etc.), published originally in 1998, received the Grand Prix Littéraire de l’Afrique Noire. Growing up in a small town in the Congo, Massala-Massala lives in the shadow not of France so much as France personified by those who return from there to his community. Moki is worldly, wealthy, stylish, successful and a physically present epitome of Paris. When he returns, the community is in a frenzy: Moki has supplied his family with two cars they use as taxis and funds to construct a villa. More important than actual wealth is Moki’s style. Moki wears major labels, purportedly purchased in designer boutiques; these outfits, and how he wears them, make the man. During one visit, Moki agrees to accompany Massala-Massala to France, and a year is spent preparing. At the end of his next visit home, they leave together. The book’s second half dwells on Massala-Massala’s profound culture shock, on the truth of life as a “débarqué,” a newly arrived illegal immigrant. He learns that Moki is not who he appears to be; Moki’s success is a beautiful illusion, assiduously cultivated as celebrity. In order to obtain his residency papers, Massala-Massala must undergo a sort of initiation: prove his value in the black market where Moki and his friends thrive.

A novel of few surprises, it must be seen for what it is: the uneven debut novel of a significant author with a growing reputation.

Pub Date: March 11, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-253-00791-9

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Indiana Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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