LOVER, TRAITOR

A haunting and understated exploration of identity and memory, by the Austrian-American academic (English/Univ. of Innsbruck, Hebrew University) whose previous works (Jakob, 1991, etc.) have won numerous awards in Germany. Devorah, a young Austrian in Jerusalem, is in search of some key to her past. Raised in America in a family of Catholic ÇmigrÇs, she's learned that her grandmother left Vienna in 1941 not simply because she was anti-Nazi, but because she was a Jew. In Israel, Devorah hopes to find out the truth behind her family's fictions, and as she makes inquiries among friends and relations about the circumstances of her family's wanderings, she begins to lose sight of her own place in the world: ``Uncertainty, secrets, and death- -these were the qualities of my childhood. And silence.'' The silence of Devorah's past becomes infused with the confusions of her present, however, when she falls in love with Sivan, a young Arab whom she meets in the Old Town. An Armenian Christian, Sivan is intense, brooding, and far too enigmatic for any woman's good. Devorah's friends warn her that he may be a Palestinian, as well as a terrorist, and Sivan's own frequent and unexplained disappearances do nothing to allay Devorah's fears. When a bus is blown up in the Old Town and dozens of bystanders are killed under circumstances that implicate not only Sivan but (unwittingly) Devorah herself, her fears intensify—but so, inexplicably, does her obsession. Within the private drama of Devorah's own uncertainty about herself and her real identity, Sivan provides a vivid and excruciating reminder that she's straddling a fence between two very different and hostile worlds. The resolution she settles on is no less painful or poignant—or credible—for being inevitable. Powerful, moving, and deft: Mitgutsch makes good use of the private meanings reflected in public events, and understands that the distinctions between them are as arbitrary and tenuous as any boundary drawn in the desert.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8050-4174-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1997

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A LITTLE LIFE

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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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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