SONGS OF ENCHANTMENT

A sequel to the Booker Prize-winning The Famished Road (1992)- -again set in a mythic African village besieged by corruption and malevolent spirits—once more celebrates the stalwart human heart's struggle to endure. Azaro, the spirit-child who defied his fellow spirits by refusing to die, continues the story of his family. His father had won a great fight, but, as Azaro reminds us, ``nothing is ever finished, struggles are never truly concluded, sometimes we have to re-dream our lives, and life can always be used to create life.'' Ahead of the family lie the invisible seven mountains of the family's destiny, and all they can do is struggle forward to reach beyond the chaos that now engulfs them. Azaro's mother has been bewitched by the mysterious, all-powerful Madame Koto, who owns a bar in the village. It is a place always undergoing ``fabulous mutations,'' where every day is a celebration, ``an affirmation of her legend.'' Azaro and his father eventually get the mother back- -but she seems changed, weighed down by the many disasters that threaten the village: a murdered man haunts the streets; a ``Jackal-headed Masquerade'' riding a white horse briefly takes over and establishes ``its kingdom of fear''; Madame Koto becomes a dread invisible presence that saps all vitality; women are turned into antelopes; Azaro's father is blinded; and politicians court the villagers with poisoned foods. The times are very much out of joint—a point overly belabored in too many evocations of evil—but Azaro's father regains his sight in a healing that is as much of the spirit as the eyes themselves, and Azaro has his own epiphany when he sees the possibility of serenity beyond the present chaos. Okri conjures up the fabulous with the same ease as he affectingly details the ways of the human spirit in a lovingly evoked African setting teeming with life—both real and mythic. At times repetitive, but stunning nonetheless.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-385-47154-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1993

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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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