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JOY THAT LONG ENDURES

From the Irish Blessings series , Vol. 2

For wonderful period details, a tender love story, and frontier humor, this continuing saga is highly recommended.

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In this second volume of her Irish Blessings series, novelist Williams (Walls for the Wind, 2016, etc.) focuses on Irish immigrant Devin Cavanaugh and biracial saloonkeeper Dulcinetta Jackson as they make lives for themselves in the Wyoming Territory.

Construction on the Union Pacific has moved on. In fact, the golden spike has finally been hammered in. Devin, raised an orphan and street urchin in New York City, has thus lost his railroad job and now works for a freight outfit out of Bryan City. One of the regular delivery routes for him and mule skinner Caleb Wilson is to South Pass City in gold mining country. One soggy morning, they are forced to take Luther Brandingham III, a young passenger who, they will find out, is Dulcinetta Jackson’s son. Devin is smitten the moment he sets eyes on the comely Dulcie. She owns the freighting business and learned canny business skills from her aunt and mentor, Lou Schering. Seeing Caleb as the grifter and drunkard that he is, she makes Devin the boss, Caleb the underling. A very sore loser, Caleb enlists some Sioux to ambush the next freight run. Almost everything is lost, and Devin barely survives. But Caleb isn’t done. He confronts Dulcie at gunpoint. What happens then shows a Dulcie who is almost preternaturally calm and crafty. Anyway, times are changing, and Devin and Dulcie move to Bryan City to begin a new chapter in their lives. Other characters needing mention are Xiang Ju, Dulcie’s stiff-necked servant, and Ailis Tierney, Devin’s friend from the orphan days, and perhaps we haven’t seen the last of them. Williams writes quite well and is very good at detailing that time and place and making us root for Devin and Dulcinetta. Dulcinetta especially is a marvelous creation, and her confrontation with that fool Caleb is alone worth the price of admission. And the way Luther takes to Devin and vice versa is heartwarming.

For wonderful period details, a tender love story, and frontier humor, this continuing saga is highly recommended.

Pub Date: May 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-987767-26-1

Page Count: 178

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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A LITTLE LIFE

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

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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FIREFLY LANE

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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