An unsettling and haunting tale of two heroines that lingers after the telling.

Piper, Once and Again

Scent memories, momentary visions, and spiritual entities that travel through time and space mingle in this fictional account of reincarnation.

Zani, who defines herself on her website as an “intuitive medium,” makes her debut with a mystical, romantic fantasy that breaches the line separating life and death. Moving back and forth between the story of her present-day heroine, Piper, and that of a 19th-century woman named Piper, Zani weaves two intersecting tales. For the first seven years of her life, Piper had an “imaginary” friend, Vander. But he vanished, along with her memory of him. What remains is her curious affinity for the letter V. A precocious child, she grows into an independent young woman who has difficulty forming close relationships. She experiences “scent-aches,” not quite a memory but rather the actual hint of an aroma that is triggered by something other than her physical surroundings. Her greatest passion involves her horses, and she has a fierce need for alone time. She is sometimes a rather self-centered, irritating character. As Zani tracks the events in Piper’s life, she intersperses chapters revolving around the earlier Piper, a sweet girl who tragically lost her mother when she was still a child and who grew to be a loving, and beloved, daughter, wife, and mother. These visits to the past story slowly reveal to the reader the sources of the smell-aches, clues that remain hidden to present-day Piper for most of the novel. When Zani’s chapters switch to the 1800s, her phrasing becomes archaic: “when she was in her twelfth summer, Vander his fourteenth….” The language feels a bit stilted and anachronistic. And although the author’s prose is reasonably smooth, her paragraphs frequently are so long that one is tempted to just move on. They would be more forceful if they were broken into two or three bites. While the suspension of disbelief is required to become fully engaged in this narrative about a love that reaches across the great divide, the reward is the guilty pleasure of gradually unraveling the puzzle that defines a raven-haired beauty who struggles with the feeling that she is somehow “different.”

An unsettling and haunting tale of two heroines that lingers after the telling.

Pub Date: July 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-942545-11-8

Page Count: 262

Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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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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