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The Father-Daughter Club

A thoroughly readable story about acceptance, forgiveness, and redemption.

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In Ragsdale’s (Tuesday’s Socks, 2014) second novel, a tightknit father and daughter face life-changing challenges that threaten the stability of their relationship.

David and Elizabeth Fredericks settle into their swanky hotel in Athens, Greece, as they begin a month’s vacation in Europe to revel in David’s new status as a retiree. They also have an unspoken hope that the trip will help strengthen their marriage, which was once nearly destroyed by David’s affair with a co-worker. Kate, their only child, is 30 years old and has always had a much tighter bond with her father, which has sometimes left Elizabeth feeling distant and isolated. On the second day of their vacation, Kate flies in from Edinburgh, Scotland, unannounced, to shakily announce that she’s happily in love with a woman. In an unexpected plot turn, Elizabeth reacts calmly, seeing a bright silver lining in the news: the potential for forging new bonds with her daughter. Her father, however, alternates between quiet seething and downright cruelty. Later, when Elizabeth takes day trips to spend more time with Kate and her partner, Charlotte, David clumsily struggles with anger, embarrassment, jealousy, and guilt. No longer is his affair coming between him and his wife; now their daughter is. When tragedy strikes, a change in the family dynamic causes even more complications. In one of many emotionally rich scenes, David drives to Edinburgh alone and locates Charlotte’s bakery, intent on confronting her and “telling her to leave his precious daughter the hell alone.” The author beautifully depicts his embarrassment and ineptitude as he bumbles through his purchase of two scones, as well as Charlotte’s dawning realization of his identity. The novel’s flowing dialogue prompts quick page turning, as it’s at once complex and believable. The descriptions of various geographic locales are as sumptuous and lyrical as a travelogue: “Fragrant lemongrass and lush ferns draped themselves over the stairs’ time-softened edges. Lush vines crept up trellises and wove themselves over arbors as hundreds of gold lights twinkled from amidst the green leaves, warming the walkways beneath.” Along the way, Ragsdale masterfully explores the characters’ emotions and the motivations behind their shifting alliances.

A thoroughly readable story about acceptance, forgiveness, and redemption.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0990747833

Page Count: 334

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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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