A mostly entertaining, sometimes thoughtful, but not terribly demanding Indian beach read.


After 25 years in the United States, four Indian friends living in California are forced to re-evaluate their lives in this novel about the costs and benefits of assimilation.

Vic, Frances, Jay and Lali, newly arrived from India, met as graduate students at UCLA. But while they may have been lumped together as Indian immigrants, they come from very different regions, religions and socio-economic classes, and those differences have shaped their experiences in America. Vic, from a poor farming community he was desperate to escape, has had the most financial success while remaining the least assimilated. He returned to India for an arranged marriage and is unhappy with how Americanized his wife has become. Now, to celebrate his older son’s graduation from MIT, Vic throws a grand Indian-style party at his Newport Beach home to which he invites Frances, Jay and Lali. Jay comes from an upper class Hindu family and seemed the golden boy in their UCLA circle; Frances, the daughter of middle class Catholics from Goa, felt lucky when they married. But UCLA was their highpoint. Jay has never risen above middle management; Frances struggles as a real estate agent during the economic downturn; and their 11th-grade daughter’s grades have plummeted. If Frances and Jay have chosen to live away from the Indian community in a largely Jewish neighborhood of Sherman Oaks, Lali has gone further afield. Originally from a Jacobite Syrian Christian community in the Indian city of Cochin, Lali now lives in San Francisco with her Jewish doctor husband, who has recently begun exploring his religious roots. Feeling isolated, Lali has drifted into an online flirtation with an Indian lover from her past. Once the friends gather, emotions flare, and secrets come to light. With the possible exception of Vic, these characters’ fallibilities only make them more likeable, particularly Jay and Frances, whose futures Cherian (A Good Indian Wife, 2008) disappointingly leaves the most unsettled.

A mostly entertaining, sometimes thoughtful, but not terribly demanding Indian beach read. 

Pub Date: May 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-393-08160-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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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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