A heartfelt story of a broken family beginning to heal.

The Book of Sonny

A badly fractured family suddenly faces a crisis in Laurie’s debut novel.

Sonny DeMario, a 40-something FedEx driver in Cedar City, Utah, and his wife, Sue, an office manager for a construction company, live in the same house but don’t love each other anymore. Years ago, Sonny’s relationships with his two grown children, Vincent and Veronica, nearly broke down completely. He expressed moral outrage over the revelation that Vincent was gay and went to live with his childhood friend in San Francisco, and about the fact that Veronica had a child out of wedlock with her abusive boyfriend, Ron Meskin. The current highlights of Sonny’s life are his job, his conversations with his friends, and the companionship of his 7-year-old German shepherd, Cody. When an acquaintance at the local dog park suggests they breed their dogs and sell the pups, Sonny agrees. Meanwhile, Sue pursues a lucrative offer to model for a handsome photographer. These parallel moneymaking ventures are interrupted when Ron, irate over Veronica’s overnight absence, takes their 3-year-old son, Darrin, and disappears. A distraught Sonny and Sue take the initiative in trying to find their grandson, putting up fliers, canvasing online social media sites, talking with friends of Ron in search of clues. Overall, Laurie’s novel is fast-paced, smoothly accomplished, and involving. He expertly intertwines the two main narrative strands, and along the way, he even includes an intriguing mystery involving an enigmatic old man who begins appearing to Sonny in visions, just as all the events in his life seem to go haywire at the same time. The dialogue throughout the story is believable and straightforward, and the plot’s undercurrents of uplift never feel cheap or manipulative, nor does the gradual deepening of Sonny’s empathy for his children.

A heartfelt story of a broken family beginning to heal.

Pub Date: June 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9976026-4-7

Page Count: 248

Publisher: I AM Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2016

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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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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