MEDICINE MEN

It's back to San Francisco and the genteel, graceful life—undermined this time by dark desire and disease—for the prolific Adams (A Southern Exposure, 1995, etc.), whose tenth novel is a virtual catalogue of physicians' moral flaws. Cock-of-the-walk Dr. Raleigh Sanderson, the city's preeminent heart surgeon, thinks nothing of ignoring his grandchildren, keeping a beautiful mistress, and boffing nurses as necessary to relieve his post-op erections; big-toothed Dr. Dave Jacobs, a widower, believes in total domination of the woman he's with; Dr. Mark Stiner, after driving his long-suffering wife to drink (as Dr. Sanderson has), takes up with a colleague. But the focus isn't really on these manly specimens, or even on their spouses, but instead on a couple of women, Molly and Felicia, best friends who have the great shared misfortune of being involved with medicine's finest. For Molly, divorced and widowed, the connection with Dr. Dave begins just as she falls ill, and her dependence on him grows when it's discovered that she has a golfball-sized tumor in her sinuses. He soon comes to dominate her every moment, until by skipping out on her last radiation treatment (and on Dr. Dave), she reasserts control of her life. Felicia, Dr. Raleigh's mistress, is utterly infatuated with the surgeon for a time, but when he hits her for stepping out on him she drops him cold. He stalks her, creeping nightly around her house, until he is foiled finally by her new man. Woven among with these two primary relationships are a host of lesser connections, of ex-wives to former husbands or lovers, brothers to others, creating an intimacy that often seems to flirt with the incestuous. But this is Adams's stock in trade, and her skill at sustaining an entre-nous point of view remains superb, leaving the reader flattered by the author's confidence, if a little uncertain as to her aims.

Pub Date: April 15, 1997

ISBN: 0517269309

Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1997

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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