Addiction is complex; this story is not.

Jane Doe Overdose


A heroin addict swings from rock bottom to stable in this novella.

Briones’ (Jane Doe: Gutted, 2013) series continues with the brief story of Miranda Anders, a woman whose childhood traumas and unfortunate friendships lead her into a lifetime struggle with heroin addiction. It all begins, of course, with her family: her father, Harry, is an “adrenaline junkie” who spends weeks away on skiing trips, and her plastic surgery– and sex-addicted mother, Virginia, sleeps around in his absence. One of Virginia’s partners includes Ted, Harry’s twin brother, who molests Miranda. Ted dies in a horrific car accident and Virginia commits suicide; and shortly afterward, Miranda steals thousands from her father and falls in with a junkie named Luke. Miranda soon finds herself living beneath an overpass, pickpocketing rich women in fancy restaurants. Doing this work she meets Sully, a proprietor of medieval-themed eateries, who somehow never worries too much about her unexplained past. They fall in love and get married within a paragraph: “The storybook marriage mirrored one of the paintings of Lancelot and Guinevere hanging in the lobby of his medieval restaurant. All perfect, all loving and soon including the addition of a son. Sully had found true happiness with Miranda. She too had found a true love. Except for her secret. Heroin.” Never mind the problematic illusion: Sully supports Miranda through her relapses, finding her good rehab facilities and eventually a good doctor, who diagnoses her with PTSD and a host of other illnesses (including Lyme disease and HIV). Briones, a medical doctor, uses these illnesses to explain Miranda’s behavior, and though her intention to inform trauma survivors of the natures of these conditions is positive, the diagnoses and miraculous cures make for an unsatisfying, too easy conclusion. Briones’ penchant for summarizing long stories over providing concrete scenes, her multiplication of incomplete side characters (such as the hospital’s doctors and homeless outreach volunteers), and her lack of deviation from a typical addiction narrative will invite further dissatisfaction with this story.

Addiction is complex; this story is not.

Pub Date: June 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5142-5614-5

Page Count: 98

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2015

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The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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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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