Readers willing to be dragged through hell will take Liam to heart.

BUTCHER A HOG

A NOVEL

O’Sullivan’s “fictionalized memoir” chronicles a horror-filled life.

Meet Liam McCarthy, memoirist O’Sullivan’s alter ego, in this, his first writing effort. Young Liam, Irish born and raised, slips into this country on a tourist visa. For the next 400 pages (and about 20 years), we follow Liam through daily hell, much of it of his own making. Not only has he a taste for booze, but he quickly develops a taste for cocaine and Xanax. With little education and having to live below governmental radar, he gets only pickup jobs—plastering, roofing and the like—and many last only a week, if that, though in the Irish underground economy, the lads do (mostly) look out for one another. Housing is another horror: cheap digs with five or six crammed together. What should go toward groceries goes toward beer or drugs. Liam is desperate for a woman but so ashamed of his appearance that he makes do with a notorious inflatable girlfriend. His self-esteem is close to nil and steadily dropping. But slowly, there are hopeful developments. He finds rehab and AA, gets married and is sober for 8 years, a remarkable achievement. Readers root for him. Then the marriage sours, and Liam relapses. But he hasn’t hit rock bottom yet. (Rock bottom is described in the opening chapter; then we flash back to the beginning, in 1985). Liam does find solid redemption or else there would be no story. Of course, he doesn’t become whole and happy overnight, but he has found what blighted his life and the means to begin again. The subject is relentlessly bleak but not so the execution of it. There is even saving humor (but only just). Liam is likable, and the idiomatic Irish voice is strong and direct, with a lilt to it. And the ending is wonderfully handled.

Readers willing to be dragged through hell will take Liam to heart.

Pub Date: June 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0615732176

Page Count: 434

Publisher: Sylvie O'

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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