Lemongrass Hope

In Impellizzeri’s debut novel, a history professor chooses between free-spiritedness and stability.
Kate, a mother and history teacher, contends daily with a decision made in her youth. The story skips through the decades of her life, revolving around a romantic compromise. While completing her master’s and working as a waitress, a young vivacious woman, Benton, takes notice of Kate, and Benton’s friend Ian can’t help but do the same. Although Benton knows of Ian’s infatuation with Kate, as the women become friends, she decides Kate would prefer her friend Rob. Kate goes on a date with Rob, but things quickly fizzle. Ian swoops in, and the two become inseparable, until he leaves on assignment. Kate—uneasy with his uprooted lifestyle and unsure of her feelings—loses hope for their relationship, despite Ian’s assurances. Rob re-enters her life, and following a miscarriage, the two decide to get married. Their marriage suffers more blows: job instability, adultery. When Kate feels as if she’s lost control, she receives an invitation from Benton for a “heartbreak cruise.” Relieved to spend a week with other scorned women, Kate finds that Ian is also attending the holiday, and she realizes this may be her second shot at love. Kate’s story speaks to the ways optimism and pessimism may affect choices. Rob condemns her for pessimistic attitude, while Ian will always cherish her as a “true optimist.” The way in which Kate grapples with their opinions of her reveals her own self-perception; she is often insecure, questioning her parenting and professionalism. The nonlinear structure makes her story unique; it switches from her days as a student to her experience as a newlywed to her failing marriage to her chance for redemption with Ian. The complex decisions at each turn build reader interest and investment in the characters.
A layered, bittersweet romance that questions consequences and explores second chances.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-939288-53-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2014

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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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