An enjoyable, thought-provoking story but one that doesn’t fully explore its themes.

WOMEN WITHIN

Three women of different generations and backgrounds meet at a retirement home in award-winning author Parrish’s latest novel (By the Wayside, 2017, etc.).

Ninety-two-year-old Constance Maynard, a resident of the Lindell Retirement Home, is a former professor and early feminist who now finds herself diminished by old age and by her difficult relationship with the woman she raised as a daughter. Eunice, a small, wiry woman in her 50s, has worked at Lindell since she was a young woman, after she lost her inheritance on a fake real estate deal for the home’s site. Her unhappy, alcoholic parents did not model a good relationship for her, and consequently, she wasted years and money on men who cruelly used her. Sam, a good-hearted, caring woman in her 20s, sees herself as large and ungainly. Reared by cold maternal grandparents and a single mom who claimed to be the victim of a rape, she now finds solace in reading poetry. Ultimately, each woman finds some degree of peace in the present, although readers may find the outcome of elderly Constance’s story to be predictable. In three sections told from each woman’s point of view, readers learn about each of their lives and how they view one another, which adds depth to their individual stories. Although the book is billed as a feminist novel with “themes of reproductive rights,” these themes aren’t well-developed beyond their direct relevance to the plot; for example, Sam’s birth resulted from a teenage pregnancy, and the woman Constance brought up as her daughter was actually her half sister by a mentally unstable mother. That said, the book does effectively address themes of social and educational inequality, particularly when comparing the life of Constance, a history professor with a doctorate from Brown University, with those of uneducated Eunice and Sam.

An enjoyable, thought-provoking story but one that doesn’t fully explore its themes.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61296-839-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2017

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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