A study of one man’s determination to defeat fear, weakness, and cancer.



An exercise physiologist and sport psychologist responds to his lifelong disease struggles with intense athleticism and risk-taking in this fictionalized biography.

Mark is 8 years old when he has his first surgery for neurogenic sarcoma, a type of cancer that produces recurring tumors throughout the body. His doctors tell him that the lump is “gone forever,” which is only the first of many medical failures in treating Mark’s rare disease. Hopeful and determined, Mark throws himself into physical activity, a pattern that persists throughout his life. Haunted by the constant specter of impending mortality, he cheats death over and over by pushing himself to feats of daring—jumping off a nine-story bridge, setting a scuba-diving record for time underwater, sky diving. When, at 65, he receives the dire diagnosis of innumerable tumors that finalizes his death sentence, he enters hospice care. There, he continues to insist on life and dignity through relentless physical exertion, timing his walks down the halls with his IV pole in tow. The novel recounts the life and experiences of Mark Crooks, a friend and mentor of Green’s (Questions of the Spirit, 2017, etc.). The author has created a memorable protagonist in Mark, driven and resolute yet deeply vulnerable. Mark’s obsession with his own physical fitness and his occasional disdain for those less disciplined make him somewhat unsympathetic at times. But the image of the 8-year-old Mark, “angry” and “lonely,” building himself up with barbells after his first surgery, gives insight into the development of his single-minded character. Also notable are the chapters like “Nemesis” that are written from the point of view of the cancer. While it is intriguing to see the protagonist’s perception of the disease, lines such as “I hate Mark, every fiber of his being…I loathe the life force bubbling through his arteries and veins and the meticulously complicated wiring of his muscles with nerves” seem a convoluted way to express his anger about his illness. But the book ends on a note of defiant joy followed by an afterword in which Green eloquently describes his relationship with the real Mark.

A study of one man’s determination to defeat fear, weakness, and cancer.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-692-36629-5

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Brent Green & Associates, Inc.

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


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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