Contrived romp from the author of Legally Blonde, the basis for the Golden Globe–nominated movie.

FAMILY TRUST

Driven yuppie versus Park Avenue preppy.

Named as guardians of four-year-old Emily, a tutu-wearing tot sweet enough to cause cavities, Becca Reinhart and Edward Kirkland square off when Emily’s unmarried parents die in a plane crash. The judge informs them that a final custody ruling will be made in three months—and may the best one win. The winsome orphan needs a mommy now, decides quick-thinking Becca, who stops jetting off to international destinations to make more millions in investment banking and plays boardgames instead with Emily. Edward, more reserved, as befits his WASP heritage, takes a little longer to establish his claim. His wannabe fiancée, a selfish bitch named Bunny Stirrup, keeps him by her side at an endless round of arty parties and charity galas, knowing that precious little Emily is likely to get in the way of her nefarious scheme to marry him (she even seeks help from his domineering mother). Other cutesy names abound: Tina Volley, a socialite, Mitch Beluga, a caterer, and Penelope Hobnob, ditzy headmistress of a French-immersion school for kindergarteners. Expensive brand names and tired clichés about the rich also abound, lest readers forget that these cardboard characters are rich and privileged. But warmhearted Becca somehow keeps it real, despite her posh apartment, spectacular view of Central Park, unimaginable success on Wall Street, and attentive minions. How does she do it? Well, for one thing, she calls her warmhearted Jewish mother every day. And she thinks nothing of dragging finicky Edward into Katz’s Deli for a nosh (and some good-natured ribbing from an abrasive waiter). He takes it all in stride, part of his patrician charm, and she has to admit that he’s attractive and relatively intelligent—for a goy. And Becca needs to marry someone if she’s to win Emily . . . and, hey, so does he. Still, the wicked Bunny lies in wait.

Contrived romp from the author of Legally Blonde, the basis for the Golden Globe–nominated movie.

Pub Date: July 14, 2003

ISBN: 0-525-94730-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2003

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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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