COLD FEET

Despite some shortcomings, the story is a solid page-turner sprinkled with clever observations about the nature of romantic...

Before Emma Moon ties the knot, she wants to know why her father walked out on her months after she was born.

Emma has always lived by the motto "Be the first person to jump ship." Her aversion to commitment is understandable after a lifetime with a mother who's kept her at arm’s length and a father who walked out of her life. This parental combo has left Emma with a gaping hole she feels can only be filled when she finds her father, Hunter Moon. Emma and her best friend, Liv, ditch a pre-wedding Napa getaway and head to San Francisco for an often funny paternal scavenger hunt. Fitzhenry’s plot is reminiscent of the 1996 Ben Stiller comedy flick Flirting with Disaster but lacks the heart and complexity that made the movie truly special. Through a series of too-convenient coincidences, Emma discovers secrets that rock the foundation of her past and threaten her future. Readers may buy the random run-in with a long-lost friend who reveals that fiance Sam might not be all he seems. And, OK, Liv’s ex-boyfriend could just happen to be at the same bar as Emma and Liv. But when a postcard for a Hunter Moon art show conveniently appears at just the right moment, debut novelist Fitzhenry slides quickly into eye-rolling territory. (To her credit, the author acknowledges the unlikeliness there by dubbing it “the Magic Postcard.”) It’s also hard to swallow that a character capable of such emotionally rich flashbacks to her childhood can be so one-dimensional in her analysis of present-day relationships. She's quick to label people as liars and cheats when there is clearly more nuance to situations. Still, Emma is easy to root for.

Despite some shortcomings, the story is a solid page-turner sprinkled with clever observations about the nature of romantic love.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-425-28111-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2015

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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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THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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