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 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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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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