A deftly told tale that will charm more than it surprises.


A perceptive, clear-eyed take on the familiar three-generations-of-women-finding-redemption theme.

Children’s author Meyer’s first adult novel is narrated alternately by grandmother Lavinia and her daughter Dorcas, who have not been especially close over the years. When Lavinia, an octogenarian widow famed for her paintings of Amish farm life, unveils a series of erotic nude paintings at the annual town art show, the town is shocked. Even the national media has shown interest. Dorcas, a divorced teacher in her mid-50s who lives in Connecticut, alerted by an old friend, hurries home to Juniata, Pennsylvania, to see for herself. Dorcas’s job bores her, an affair is going nowhere, and she’s ready for a change. Staying with the feisty and opinionated Lavinia, Dorcas sneaks a peak at the picture her mother has hidden: the woman in the paintings is clearly a young Lavinia, but the handsome nude man is a stranger. When Dorcas impulsively decides to buy a once-grand old house, and turn it into a B&B, Lavinia isn’t sure it’s good idea, and says so. But Dorcas goes ahead and, with the help of old high-school buddy Rod, a recently divorced local builder, she successfully completes the renovation. While Dorcas is busy developing her business and contending with Rod’s interest in her, Lavinia decides to write her memoirs, revealing that she had an affair with the handsome young nude, once a stonecutter employed by her father. Dorcas also revisits her past when daughter Sasha arrives from California, pregnant and with a lesbian lover, en route to see her dying father, Alex (and whom Sasha adores, though Dorcas never loved him). As family secrets, old and new, are revealed—Lavinia is going blind, Sasha feels alienated from her lover—the three women draw closer.

A deftly told tale that will charm more than it surprises.

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-882593-68-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bridge Works

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2003

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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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Laymon moves us dazzlingly (and sometimes bewilderingly) from 1964 to 1985 to 2013 and incorporates themes of prejudice,...


A novel within a novel—hilarious, moving and occasionally dizzying.

Citoyen “City” Coldson is a 14-year-old wunderkind when it comes to crafting sentences. In fact, his only rival is his classmate LaVander Peeler. Although the two don’t get along, they’ve qualified to appear on the national finals of the contest "Can You Use That Word in a Sentence," and each is determined to win. Unfortunately, on the nationally televised show, City is given the word “niggardly” and, to say the least, does not provide a “correct, appropriate or dynamic usage” of the word as the rules require. LaVander similarly blows his chance with the word “chitterlings,” so both are humiliated, City the more so since his appearance is available to all on YouTube. This leads to a confrontation with his grandmother, alas for City, “the greatest whupper in the history of Mississippi whuppings.” Meanwhile, the principal at City’s school has given him a book entitled Long Division. When City begins to read this, he discovers that the main character is named City Coldson, and he’s in love with a Shalaya Crump...but this is in 1985, and the contest finals occurred in 2013. (Laymon is nothing if not contemporary.) A girl named Baize Shephard also appears in the novel City is reading, though in 2013, she has mysteriously disappeared a few weeks before City’s humiliation. Laymon cleverly interweaves his narrative threads and connects characters in surprising and seemingly impossible ways.

Laymon moves us dazzlingly (and sometimes bewilderingly) from 1964 to 1985 to 2013 and incorporates themes of prejudice, confusion and love rooted in an emphatically post-Katrina world.

Pub Date: June 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-932841-72-5

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Bolden/Agate

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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