Celebrating the importance of illusion and accident, Shields’s beautifully crafted stories capture her characters’ shocked...


``We cannot live without our illusions,'' muses one of the characters in this exuberant collection, stating a theme that Shields turns to repeatedly in 22 precise, penetrating tales.

The dazzling title story traces the play of hope and fantasy in the lives of a series of townspeople over the course of one seemingly uneventful day, their quotidian acts revealing those stubborn, regenerative ``cycles of consolation and enhancement'' with which we overcome despair. In ``The Scarf,'' a middleaged writer, amazed by the unexpected success of her novel, comes to grips with the limitations of her talent during a lunch with an old friend. In less assured hands such epiphanies might seem unsurprising, but the prolific Shields (Larry’s Party, 1997, etc.) creates characters with such believable complexities of behavior that their discoveries are fresh and convincing. In ``Dressing Down,'' a ten-year-old boy spends the summer at a nudist camp his grandfather founded, discovering there how the battle over reticence and frankness has defined his grandparents’ marriage—and learning also that nudity tends to dissolve possibility and mystery, making people more prosaic than alluring. ``Eros'' follows the reveries of a middleaged survivor of breast cancer as she looks back at her long, slow discovery of sex, from her first childhood suspicions of its presence in the lives of her parents to its impact on her nowdissolved marriage. Loss has taught her that, while sex provides no ultimate liberation, it plays a vital role in helping people for a moment to feel ``part of the blissful, awakened world.'' In the terse ``New Music,'' writing the biography of a minor composer transforms its author, giving her and her family a startled appreciation of imagination’s power to remake life.

Celebrating the importance of illusion and accident, Shields’s beautifully crafted stories capture her characters’ shocked discovery of the gap between imagination and reality—and their ability to find happiness despite this in the “opening, beckoning, sensuous world.”

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-670-88921-0

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.


Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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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