An engaging tale about the meditative life whose hip-hop stylings make the enlightenment lighthearted.



A despondent rapper gets his groove back with the help of an Indian guru in this debut novel–cum–self-help guide.

A-Luv, an American rap superstar and son of Indian immigrants, enjoys a Malibu, California, mansion along with “an iced-out Rolex, massive diamonds in his ears, and countless rings and bracelets.” But his bling-obsessed ethos has saddled him with depression, loneliness, drug addiction, and a creative drought. His agent steers him to the Indian town of Laxman Jhula, by the holy River Ganges in the Himalayan foothills, and to Guddu, a jeweler and spiritual leader of a yoga retreat center. Guddu has an “inner glow that feels pure” and a thunderous laugh—“AH ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah!”—that echoes through the book. A-Luv agrees to learn about his “high vibe lifestyle,” based on Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. Central to the creed is a mystic metaphysics, which maintains that “everyone is made of energy, which means we’re all the same inside, and connected,” and advocates the quieting of the egoistic, ever distracted “monkey mind” through the cultivation of the soul’s awareness by meditation. Guddu’s fetching assistant, Nikki, puts A-Luv through meditative exercises, like staring at a candle flame. Soon, his awareness and powers of concentration burgeon along with his attraction to Nikki. A dangerous whitewater rafting trip down the Ganges with Guddu teaches A-Luv more lessons on the “Five Fingers of Life,” a doctrine that emphasizes being present in the moment, accepting and dealing with the world even when it’s capsizing your raft, and treating life as a flow of playfulness and creativity. Seth, an entrepreneur and music producer, conveys the warmhearted book’s sometimes-esoteric Eastern wisdom in a down-to-earth way. The mechanics of meditation are illustrated in a straightforward fashion (“Focus on the rhythm and the sensations of your breathing. The warmth of the air, the sensations in your nose”). And the basic insights—focus, avoid neurotic rumination, take things as they come—are couched in pragmatic Western tones (“You can’t eliminate head trash without changing your beliefs”). The author’s prose is a bit didactic, but A-Luv’s common touch—“Almost every person I admire has meditation as a common denominator….I was like yo, maybe this is for real”—keeps things reasonably fresh.

An engaging tale about the meditative life whose hip-hop stylings make the enlightenment lighthearted.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5445-0553-4

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Flow Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


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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