A military tale explores the strengths and frailties of the human mind in the aftermath of war.

A Crowded Heart

A soldier struggles to come to terms with the psychological impact of war in this historical novel.

Willis Hancocks, a debonair Canadian soldier, fights on the western front of the European theater of World War II. He is first encountered recuperating in an Army hospital, where he delights in charming the nurses. Here he meets Sam, a cocky yet warmhearted soldier and fellow casualty. Sam’s presence buoys Willis, and he is disappointed when the young man returns to combat. Asking whether he will be sent home, Willis learns that he will be kept around “for the entertainment.” He is posted to the Netherlands, where he celebrates the liberation of Eindhoven. He encounters Sam, and falls for a beautiful waitress called Frieda, who fills his dreams long after he’s kissed her goodbye. After a period of fighting, Willis and Sam enjoy a short leave in London. Willis meets Ellie Birch, an art student, and in a whirlwind romance, he proposes to her before heading for combat. Following the fall of the Nazis, Willis returns to Ellie, yet he’s withdrawn, depressed, and sensitive to sudden, loud noises or commotion. Willis is sent away to convalesce, but the difficulties of settling back into everyday life only intensify when Ellie gives birth. Will Willis find the strength to fulfill his role as husband and father? Will the dream of Frieda ever leave him? This sensitive, vital novel examines the psychological toll of war on the soldier and those closest to him. The result is a deeply personal and affecting narrative, punctuated by touching letters and snippets of italicized inner monologues. In the midst of battle, Willis writes: “In this place, there are days I can’t see past the end of my nose, and other days all I can see is my whole life ahead of me.” Ellie responds by letter: “I wish for happiness this year: an end to this war and our own suffering. I wish for you to come home.” Raine (Outcast: A Short Story, 2015, etc.) generates a powerfully genuine sense of yearning, which becomes tragic when Willis is unable to reciprocate this emotion when returning home. The novel lacks vivid combat descriptions, which would have helped inform the physical cause of Willis’ “combat neurosis,” now known as post-traumatic stress disorder. Furthermore, Sam’s character appears rather underdeveloped in comparison to the multifaceted Willis. Nevertheless, this is a well-written, emotionally intelligent book.

A military tale explores the strengths and frailties of the human mind in the aftermath of war.  

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62901-313-8

Page Count: 174

Publisher: Inkwater Press

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2016

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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