Troubling, disarming and uncomfortably real.

FALLING IN LOVE WITH NATASSIA

An unconventional family digs through 15 years of secrets to help its troubled teen.

Natassia Stein is the love child of creative, passionate, young, unmarried parents without the foggiest idea how to raise her. Born in Rome to Mary (Korean war baby and professional dancer) and Ross (Jewish pre-med son of prominent New York book editors) while they’re on a college study-abroad trip, she is shuttled around carelessly for the first several years of her life and then sent to live with her doting, if neurotic, paternal grandparents. As her father establishes his medical practice in Spokane and her mother travels the world with various dance troupes, the now 15-year-old Natassia has her heart broken by a much older man and can’t seem to pick up the pieces when the affair ends. Also involved are Mary’s best friend, Nora, a nervous psychotherapist, and her husband, Christopher, a nurturing painter, who have known Natassia since she was an infant in Europe. As Mary tries to reestablish her relationship with her daughter and coax her back from the brink of disaster, the Steins beg for her return to the city, Ross gets perpetually wasted on the West Coast and Nora and Christopher struggle with their own role in Natassia’s unraveling: a secret that has the potential to destroy both their relationship with the Stein family and their own marriage. Finally, the parties convene under the watchful eye of Natassia’s therapist to explore the damages both small and great, that the family has done to a fragile child. Given that the big secret is revealed a tenth of the way in, this novel is too long by far, but there is something hauntingly honest about the cast of largely self-serving characters and the imperfect intersections of their love.

Troubling, disarming and uncomfortably real.

Pub Date: June 20, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-51466-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2006

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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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