Plain reading: no troubling shadings to complicate or disturb.

HER FATHER’S HOUSE

A divorced father, fearing the influence of his ruthlessly social-climbing ex, kidnaps his baby daughter and heads to the hills—until his past and the police catch up.

Brilliant lawyer Donald Wolf is a straight-arrow kind of guy and a romantic soul who wants to marry and have kids. An associate in a leading New York firm, he thinks that in Lillian, a legal secretary who loves art, he’s met the perfect woman. While Lillian is curiously reticent about her family and past, Donald is too smitten to ask questions. Nor is he particularly curious when Mr. Buzley, her boss, gives them a lavish wedding gift. Once married, Lillian spends money freely and befriends the rich couple who live in the penthouse. Next she’s dragging Donald to glamorous parties and complaining they don’t have enough money. When she gets pregnant, they decide to take a trip to Italy, where Lillian studied art and where Donald, already tired of Lillian’s greedy ways, learns more about her past—not good—and asks for a divorce. Lillian gives birth to daughter Bettina, and, now married to Mr. Buzley, lives in style. But soon Donald, who sees Bettina regularly in the park with her nanny, learns that Lillian is cheating on Buzley. An accident involving Bettina convinces Donald that life with Lillian would be bad for her, and he so kidnaps the two-year-old, takes a false name, and heads for a small hill-town in Georgia, where years pass, he becomes a respected citizen, and makes himself helpful to ailing farmer Clarence Benson, his pretty wife Kate, and their young son Rick. Aware that the police are looking for him, Donald never leaves town, but his past catches up with him when he goes to Bettina’s college graduation. His life unravels as lies and secrets come to light—but this is Belva Plain (Looking Back, 2001, etc. etc.), and happiness lies ahead.

Plain reading: no troubling shadings to complicate or disturb.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2002

ISBN: 0-385-33472-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

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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