A touching compendium of down-home guidance, short on plot but emotionally potent.

The Legacy Letters

HIS WIFE, HIS CHILDREN, HIS FINAL GIFT

In Papritz’s debut novel, a dying father delivers bittersweet words of wisdom in a series of letters to his unborn children.

The story’s unnamed narrator was recently diagnosed with a terminal illness and given seven months to live. He’s also estranged from his wife, who’s pregnant with his twins. He doesn’t want to endanger the pregnancy, so he keeps his illness a secret from her and retires to a mountain cabin. There, he writes the letters that make up this book—a guidebook for the twins about love, loss, childhood, growing up and everything in between. Some of the letters are bubbly and optimistic, extolling the virtues of first kisses and autumn days; others are melancholy and pensive, revealing the narrator’s pain at leaving the world—and his family—too soon. Papritz’s writing overflows with folksy hyperbole, which can be both an asset and a burden. Some readers may roll their eyes at such over-the-top language as “Cause a conniption and a bucketful of mischief. Dance a monkey-doodle.” Often, however, the author’s knack for unusual phrasing makes for fresh, arresting images, as when the narrator writes, “I gather the last remnants of the evening’s breeze, so cool and lazy within my arms, feeling it curl up like a small and innocent kitten.” The novel’s plot is wispy, at best; there’s very little information about the conflict with his wife or the details of his illness, and those looking for a driving story won’t find it here. As a collection of short essays, however, the book is deeply immersive, and it has a strong sense of atmosphere that renders such narrative details hardly necessary. The narrator’s feelings—about the life he’s lived and the death he faces—come off as authentic, and readers will enjoy following him through it. (The author has also published a longer version called The Legacy Letters Complete, which includes audio recordings of the songs that the narrator writes for his children.)

A touching compendium of down-home guidance, short on plot but emotionally potent.

Pub Date: July 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0985708870

Page Count: 248

Publisher: King Northern, Inc.

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2013

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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