MEETING LUCIANO

A debut novel describing the coming-of-age of a young Japanese-American woman who must deal with her aging mother’s withdrawal into a private world of her own fantasies. “There are two kinds of parents: those who bring you up with stories of their own childhood, and others who act like they never had one.” Thus does Emily Shimoda preface the story of her own mother Hanako’s life in Japan and the US, and although Emily makes it clear that she would place Hanako in the former category, subsequent events make this judgement somewhat dubious. Although Emily grew up in the States, her family became American only by default, when Emily’s parents kept extending their “temporary” stay by becoming citizens and eventually buying a house in the suburbs of New York City. Hanako Shimoda is something of a culture-vulture, madly in love with Italian opera in general and Pavarotti in particular. Recently divorced from her husband of many years, she now keeps house for Emily, who is just through with college and waiting tables at a local Japanese restaurant. A chance encounter with Pavarotti outside the Metropolitan Opera—which may or may not actually have occurred—convinces Hanako that the tenor is coming to visit her when he performs at a nearby arts center, so she hires a contractor to renovate the first floor of her home in preparation for his arrival. Emily’s suspicions about her mother’s grasp on reality, aroused by the Pavarotti stories, are confirmed by the impossibly elaborate construction plans being undertaken on the house. Is Hanako losing her hold on the world? Or is it Emily who finds adult responsibilities too much to bear? As the day of Pavarotti’s visit approaches, it becomes less easy to say just who has the clearer picture of herself. Engaging, funny, and thoroughly likable: Eksai-Smith’s account of characters moving through unfamiliar worlds makes up in sincerity what it lacks in finesse. A good beginning.

Pub Date: April 9, 1999

ISBN: 1-56512-215-1

Page Count: 252

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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