African-Americans battle and lust after one another as they struggle to gain control of an oil field in Texas in the 1920's: a well-researched if clichÇ-gushing first hardcover. Leela Brannon, orphaned as an infant and raised by her voodoo- spouting grandmother and seamstress aunt in Mexia, Texas, gets her shot at the American dream when she marries prosperous landowner T.J. Wilder and becomes mistress of Rioluces—Wilder's 160-acre melon farm outside of Mexia. Hard-working T.J., however, is also coldhearted, and Leela soon finds herself almost succumbing to his half-brother—flashy gambler Carey Logan. When T.J. discovers the two in his hayloft, semi-clothed, he banishes Carey from Rioluces. But seven years later, after T.J. dies of tuberculosis, Carey returns to claim Leela and gain control of Rioluces, by now the target of crooked, oil-crazed white speculators. Meanwhile, Leela has joined forces with Victor Beaufort, an ambitious wildcatter who advances her the money to save Rioluces from foreclosure in return for the right to drill for oil on her land. Just as Victor and Leela are on the verge of gaining everything they want—wedding bands on their fingers and control over the black gold of Rioluces- -Carey steps in with an evil scheme that almost destroys them and leaves Rioluces in flames. Near the close, Victor's financial base has been ruined, and Leela is on trial for the murder of Carey (whom she's discovered, in a southern gothic twist, is really her half-brother). Innocent Leela is eventually acquitted, of course- -and she and Victor reunite on the grounds of Rioluces. Despite interesting historical documentation of a neglected chapter of African-American history: a saga marred by oily, overheated prose that renders the characters as insubstantial as layers of methane gas.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 1994

ISBN: 0-525-93752-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1993

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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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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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