Somber but undeniably affecting and profound tales.


In Felicelli’s (Sparks Off You, 2012, etc.) short story collection, Tamil-Americans struggle to find themselves in a world that persistently marginalizes them.

In the title tale, an unnamed San Franciscan narrator returns to Chennai, his birthplace, to research the legend of the lost continent of Kumari Kandam. It’s a decision that impresses neither his father in the States nor his girlfriend Komakal’s parents in Tamil Nadu. Like the narrator, other characters in these poignant stories deal with questions of identity. Young Hagar of “Everywhere, Signs,” is attending a Pittsburgh school, where, soon after the 9/11 attacks, her fellow students brand her a terrorist—simply because she’s a person of color. In “Elephants in the Pink City,” Kai Sarma’s traditional parents won’t let him date whom he wishes after he comes out as gay; and Susannah, an Indian, is shunned by white and Tamil Brahmin classmates in “The Logic of Someday.” Felicelli typically steeps her tales in metaphors, resulting in audacious approaches to such issues as racism and sexism. For example, in the opening story, “Deception,” Sita is in an arranged marriage to a Bengal tiger. When the big cat dies from poisoning, Sita becomes a murder suspect; local villagers ignore the fact that her husband, a literal beast, had been abusing her. Many other stories take dark turns, including deaths of loved ones and fractured relationships. The brightness of Felicelli’s prose, however, provides a beautiful contrast: “She kept her good eye closed against the fluorescent hospital lights,” she writes in “Snow,” “trying to forget the humiliating sound of the cocktail glass smashing, the shower of glass splinters.” Although each of the 13 stories here can stand on its own, characters do recur in multiple tales. Kai and his sister, Hema, for instance, both appear in “Elephants in the Pink City” and the later “Hema and Kathy,” and Susannah crops up in “Snow” and “The Art of Losing,” which centers on her former boyfriend’s mother, Maisie.

Somber but undeniably affecting and profound tales.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-945233-04-3

Page Count: 266

Publisher: Stillhouse Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...


Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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