A noisy domestic drama—set in the environs of New York City and Israel—in which a family is torn apart by the father's political ruin. Again, as in the author's Cafe Nevo (1987) and Changing States (1981), Israel offers a challenge and a vision that, here, will unlock a heart and provide a future. The household headed by Jonathan Fleishman, much admired Democratic Party leader with a past of civil-rights activism, is not a happy one. Wife Lily, remote but always gently supportive, is as helpless as Jonathan in the face of the rage of 18-year-old Grace, always ``a fighter and survivor,'' always her father's favorite. Like grandmother Clara, son Paul is an ``uncompromising materialist,'' but, unlike Clara, Paul has no commitment to family (Paul has a few stupid/nasty lines, then splits for good). Now Jonathan—given the shoulder by daughter Grace because, in spite of all his noble sentiments, he'd sold their home in a newly black neighborhood—is in deep trouble. Old friends have squealed, the media is rumbling, and the law is about to accuse him of extortion and influence-peddling—things that ``everybody does.'' Reporter Barnaby sleeps with Grace, and elicits a family secret. Thumbscrews, meanwhile, are being twisted on Jonathan's reputation; Lily is dying of a brain tumor; and then Grace, sent to Israel to stay at a kibbutz with Aunt Tamar and her adopted son Micha, is lost in a Judean desert. The Book of Job, not surprisingly, comes to mind. Finally, Jonathan delivers a high-decibel confession to a jury, sacrificially inviting the clink; Lily dies; and Grace has her angst cured by Israel, where there's a ``saving attachment to place.'' There's also Micha—strong, brave, with a cleft in his chin, etc. An earnest novel, but simplistic in characterization. One cannot believe in these theatric people, who seem to have only one stance and one dimension.

Pub Date: June 26, 1991

ISBN: 0-525-24963-X

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1991

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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