WHAT ARE YOU LIKE?

The story's structure is too loose to be compelling, but newcomer Enright's lyrical language bespeaks her talent.

This Irish writer's American debut offers stunning images, though not enough story to make the evocative language truly resonant.

In 1965 Dublin a baby is born and a mother dies. What follows is over 20 years of fractured narrative as the girl grows up, the widower remarries, and a shocking secret is revealed. Taking time off from pursuing her engineering degree to live in New York, 20-year-old Maria falls in love with a man with a past-perhaps her own past. Innocently rummaging through his things one day, Maria finds among his possessions a picture of herself as a young girl, wearing clothes she's never owned and standing among people she's never met. Soon the mystery is resolved: The baby who was born was actually twins whom their distraught father Berts carelessly separated, choosing Maria, while Marie, renamed Rose, is adopted by an English couple living in London. As Enright flip-flops between Maria and Rose, the two women, so emotionally similar, grow up, choosing different though often parallel paths. The novel's haunting, albeit distant prose shines when describing the sensations of their mother Anna, pregnant and dying of a brain tumor, as she puts ketchup in the sugar bowl, and to her ailing mind the "sound of a tap dripping smel[ls] of roses." But far too often the narrative keeps Maria and Rose at arm's length, and the digressive revelations about middle-aged adulterer Berts, his new wife Evelyn, and Anna speaking from beyond the grave only widen the distance between the reader and the twins' unnamed heartache. Slowly the two sisters inch towards each other, but the final reconciliation of twin strangers isn't enough to save the meandering plot.

The story's structure is too loose to be compelling, but newcomer Enright's lyrical language bespeaks her talent.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-87113-816-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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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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