SHOOT THE MOON

A Beverly Hills veterinarian goes south hoping to locate the mother who gave him up for adoption—but finds himself instead investigating a murder, a cover-up, and attempts on his own life.

Evoking the closeness of small-town life in DeClare, Oklahoma (epitomized by Teeve’s Place, a combined diner and pool hall owned and run by Teeve Narjo), bestselling Letts (Where the Heart Is, 1995, etc.) begins her third outing as handsome Dr. Mark Allbright arrives in town. Mark has just learned that he is adopted and that his mother was Gaylene Narjo, from DeClare, and he now wants to confront her and ask why she didn’t want him. But Gaylene, he learns, when he introduces himself to Teeve, was murdered 30 years ago and her son Nicky Jack, then ten-months-old, disappeared and was never seen again. The murder was attributed to a well-regarded African-American, Joe Dawson, who allegedly killed himself in jail. DeClare is a politically correct mix of good guys (Native Americans, a gay lawyer, a crusading anti-Republican journalist) and bad guys (a sadistic white sheriff, O Boy Daniels, a gun-nut, bigoted teachers) that may look good but makes for a blindingly unshaded story. As Mark reads Gaylene’s diary, he learns how she dreamed of becoming an artist and how, as a native Cherokee, she was angered by the bigotry she experienced at high school. He also learns that she was pregnant when she graduated, and no one knows who was responsible. With the help of Ivey, Teeve’s single and pregnant daughter, and of lawyer Hal Duchamp, Mark begins his search for Gaylene’s killer. Some of the locals, though, including O Boy Daniels and the radio station’s Arthur McFadden, aren’t happy about Mark’s continuing presence. Still, even when someone tries to take him out, Mark is not deterred. Eventually, of course, his amateur sleuthing pays off—and he even finds someone to love.

Perfect for the beach.

Pub Date: July 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-446-52900-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2004

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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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