A captivating story of loss, forgiveness and ultimate redemption.

CLOSE YOUR EYES

Lauren Mahdian believes her father "ruined everything, everything, everything" in Ward’s (Sleep Toward Heaven, 2004, etc.) literary novel.

Lauren is just past 30, lives in trendy Austin, Texas, with her boyfriend, works as a real-estate agent and has one anchor in her somewhat neurotic life, her older brother, Alex. Lauren’s certain her father killed her mother, a murder that occurred when Lauren was eight and the family lived in New York. Alex, even though believing their father innocent, has been her pillar of emotional support throughout their life with maternal grandparents, through college and beyond. Their father, Izaan Mahdian, was an Egyptian immigrant, a writer, but a man whose Jewish-American wife, Jordan, was the family breadwinner. In the afterglow of a party, Jordan was killed by a blow to the head. Izaan was convicted of her murder and has spent two decades in prison. Lauren's logic, and a shadowy memory, tells her Izaan is guilty, but her heart constantly reminds her that belief is counter to all that she knew and loved about her parents. The novel opens with Alex leaving for Baghdad to serve with Doctors without Borders. Alex is soon declared missing after a car bombing, pushing Lauren further toward collapse. The story grows more complicated when, in Book Two of the novel's five, Sylvia Hall leaves her boyfriend at a Colorado ski resort and heads to her childhood home in New York City. Sylvia is 41 and pregnant, and she is linked to Lauren in a manner which Lauren cannot comprehend. Lauren is a realistic, sympathetic protagonist. Her relationship with her boyfriend and Sylvia's relationship with hers eerily mirrors the relationship of Izaan and Jordan, but that remains symbolic rather than fully explored. Ward writes familiarly of Austin, and of New York City, and her writing, laced with literary prose, moves the narrative forward believably.

A captivating story of loss, forgiveness and ultimate redemption.

Pub Date: July 26, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-345-49448-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2011

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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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Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters...

TRUE COLORS

Female rivalry is again the main preoccupation of Hannah’s latest Pacific Northwest sob saga (Firefly Lane, 2008, etc.).

At Water’s Edge, the family seat overlooking Hood Canal, Vivi Ann, youngest and prettiest of the Grey sisters and a champion horsewoman, has persuaded embittered patriarch Henry to turn the tumbledown ranch into a Western-style equestrian arena. Eldest sister Winona, a respected lawyer in the nearby village of Oyster Shores, hires taciturn ranch hand Dallas Raintree, a half-Native American. Middle sister Aurora, stay-at-home mother of twins, languishes in a dull marriage. Winona, overweight since adolescence, envies Vivi, whose looks get her everything she wants, especially men. Indeed, Winona’s childhood crush Luke recently proposed to Vivi. Despite Aurora’s urging (her principal role is as sisterly referee), Winona won’t tell Vivi she loves Luke. Yearning for Dallas, Vivi stands up Luke to fall into bed with the enigmatic, tattooed cowboy. Winona snitches to Luke: engagement off. Vivi marries Dallas over Henry’s objections. The love-match triumphs, and Dallas, though scarred by child abuse, is an exemplary father to son Noah. One Christmas Eve, the town floozy is raped and murdered. An eyewitness and forensic evidence incriminate Dallas. Winona refuses to represent him, consigning him to the inept services of a public defender. After a guilty verdict, he’s sentenced to life without parole. A decade later, Winona has reached an uneasy truce with Vivi, who’s still pining for Dallas. Noah is a sullen teen, Aurora a brittle but resigned divorcée. Noah learns about the Seattle Innocence Project. Could modern DNA testing methods exonerate Dallas? Will Aunt Winona redeem herself by reopening the case? The outcome, while predictable, is achieved with more suspense and less sentimental histrionics than usual for Hannah.

Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters and understanding of family dynamics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-36410-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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