A quick read with likable characters and an affecting ending.

WAITING FOR GRACE

A NOVEL OF REDEMPTION

Zani (Piper, Once & Again, 2016) returns with an intricately crafted novel about starting over after suffering life-changing loss.

The narrative opens with an intriguing dialogue, occurring in 1991, between an unnamed plastic surgeon seeking legal advice, and a lawyer, identified only as “Cranston,” who refuses to take the doctor’s case because “We only take cases we can win.” Fast-forward to 2019, and Dr. Eli Cranston is in his barn feeding Ink and Smudge, two rescue ponies that he recently adopted. Is this the same Cranston? Indeed, it is. In 1991, Eli was a successful defense attorney working for his father’s law firm, one of the largest in California. He was married to a woman named Antigone and had a newborn daughter, Grace. Since then, readers learn, he’s become a doctor of psychotherapy specializing in “FLP” (“Future Life Progression,” a form of hypnotic therapy), and has moved to a small town in Maine. The principal people in Eli’s new life are Clem, a crusty but charming jack-of-all-trades who speaks with a heavy Maine accent (“Just give me the kinda terlet seat yah want”); Rebecca, who owns a farm and sells baked goods at the farmers market; Otto and Elise Gunther, survivors of Nazi Germany; and Hope, an 11-year-old with a drug-abusing mother and an abusive, heavy-drinking father; the girl takes care of Eli’s ponies. Zani’s engaging, descriptive narration is filled with powerful imagery, whether she’s describing a setting (“the sounds of the water beyond the trees could be heard here in the stillness. The bay quietly filling and emptying leaving the sand studded with clams”) or disclosing someone’s inner thoughts. Throughout, the author drops hints and uses periodic flashbacks—set during various stages of Grace’s early and teenage years—which make it clear that Eli is deeply troubled by something in his past that he’d rather not address. She skillfully weaves together what initially appear to be unrelated story threads and provides some surprising twists, as when Hope learns who her great-grandparents are, or when Eli finally overcomes his demons and his past comes roaring back, threatening to upend it all.

A quick read with likable characters and an affecting ending.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-948018-71-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2019

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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 steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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