Tender writing about a raw life.

THE IHOP PAPERS

Schoolgirl crush frees a young waitress to escape the ’burbs for San Francisco.

Francesca’s friends think she’s wonderful—and why wouldn’t they? Beneath a thin veneer of hip cynicism, she’s thoughtful, brilliant and genuinely kind. She’s also abject and self-destructive, qualities that endear her to her philosophy professor, Irene. The book begins as Francesca follows Irene to San Francisco, hoping that Irene’s pity will turn to love. But the story truly gets underway when Francesca realizes the steepness of the price for being near her idol. Irene, it turns out, is no saint. She seems to collect needy students, and already lives with two young lovers, Jenny and Gustavo. Dejected, Francesca ends up in a tiny apartment in a seedy part of town, supporting herself by waitressing at IHOP. And while she waits for her luck to change, she develops a fulfilling, if eccentric, routine. She writes in her journal, tries to figure out how to get a girlfriend, attends AA meetings and seduces the occasional woman. The novel is supposed to be Francesca’s journal, and although it is filled with love-sick meditations about women, Irene in particular, it is also filled with impressively realized vignettes about Francesca’s customers, her parents and her lovers. Part of Francesca’s personality (and part of the story’s considerable force) is her fine ear for the tenor and cadences of other people’s speech. Francesca is keenly observant; she can mimic her father, her mother and her friends without mocking them, and she is saved from an unbearably coy quirkiness by her readiness to believe anything anyone tells her about herself. Watching Francesca realize how much she loves her little apartment, her new friends and even her grubby, smelly uniform is one of the many satisfactions here.

Tender writing about a raw life.

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2007

ISBN: 0-7867-1794-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2007

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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