High-grade romance energized by environmental awareness: not a toxic mix.


Best-selling Delinsky (Lake News, 1999, etc.) imagines 21st-century life in the town that inspired Grace Metalious’s notorious novel.

Annie Barnes also comes from Middle River, N.H., even though she now lives in Washington, D.C., and Annie’s nearing the two-million-copy mark for her third novel, though of course that doesn’t match Grace’s sales. When Annie returns home after her mother’s death, everyone in town, including her sisters Phoebe and Sabina, is convinced she’s there to expose all of Middle River’s dirty little secrets. (Readers will have to take it on faith that small-town folks can be as idiotically accusative as Delinsky makes them here.) About 70 percent of Middle River’s income derives from the Northwood paper mill, ruled by awful Aidan Meade. Now 33 and on his third marriage, Aidan once stood up plain-Jane Annie for the high-school prom (he was having an affair with a married woman). No, she’s not out for vengeance; she just wants to know whether her mother’s fatal illness, the symptoms of which are now replicated in Phoebe, is related in any way to mercury waste from the paper mill. The author’s research on mercury poisoning gives this story some stature above that of its agonizingly small-minded characters. (Just in case that’s too high-minded, Delinsky throws in an underaged teenager having sex on a dark road and a police chief addicted to painkillers.) Annie gets a list of people whose sicknesses may stem from mercury poisoning. The townsfolk get more and more upset with her. Soon Grace appears inside Annie’s head, and the pair of writers begin an endless conversation. Meanwhile, Annie starts running in the morning and meets fellow jogger James Meade, Aidan’s handsome, well-spoken brother. She gets her big break when a mysterious correspondent begins telling her secrets via e-mail. Will the truth come out at last?

High-grade romance energized by environmental awareness: not a toxic mix.

Pub Date: July 19, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-4644-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2005

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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 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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