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THE FAT LADY'S LOW, SAD SONG

An entertaining, sweetly atmospheric baseball story.

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An over-the-hill first baseman and a female pitcher lead a misfit team to minor league glory in this hangdog sports romance. 

After 10 years in the minors, first baseman Parker Westfall has nothing to show for it except two suitcases containing all his worldly belongings, a fat gut, and impressive home run stats that somehow never impressed a major league team. He reaches the lowest rung of pro ball when he signs with the indie league cellar-dwelling Fort Collins Miners in Colorado. There, he joins a crew of leftovers, including a gigantic outfielder with a hair-trigger temper, an aching catcher, and a second baseman with a yen for Shakespeare. Presiding over them is Grady O’Connor, an irascible manager with an inane “Grady Ball” system that consists mainly of chewing players out, even when they hit homers. Rounding out the roster is newbie Courtney Morgan, a 20-year-old female knuckleballer who bowls Parker over with her looks. Parker gets off to a fine start, batting .400 and blasting balls out of the stadium, but Courtney, despite her world-class knuckler, gets shelled off the mound in her outings. When Parker tries to give her advice, he runs up against her prickly defensiveness and Grady’s idiotic managerial decrees. Debut author Kaufman’s knockabout yarn paints a grubby but beguiling portrait of minor league purgatory with its cruddy locker rooms, lewd dugout banter, and belligerent fans, all lit in the twilight glow of misbegotten major league dreams. His prose captures both the thrill of the game—“the ball strikes the top of his glove’s webbing, and when Montgomery falls back to earth like Icarus, having touched the sun, the ball stays in his glove”—and the crass commercialism behind the heroics. (“If I keep the same guys on, year after year, we become a lower-tier product, indistinguishable from roller derby,” the team owner says, explaining that the need to draw fans with the illusion that they are watching future major leaguers means Parker’s contract won’t be renewed despite his great season.) Parker and his teammates can’t win, but readers will still root for them. 

An entertaining, sweetly atmospheric baseball story.

Pub Date: June 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68433-072-0

Page Count: 190

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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FIREFLY LANE

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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