A first collection set in North Dakota among Nordic-Americans and mostly at the time of the Great Depression. Several of the seven stories here are evocative, moving renditions of prairie life, while the others are either one-pony anecdotes stretched too thin or affectionate portraits painted with a local-color palette. The title piece, one of the best, is about Ildri, a seamstress who shows up at a small dress-shop on the Dakota Plains and works with the narrator's mother on a wedding dress, which draws the two of them together and gives Young a symbol to develop: the bride-to- be runs off, so Ildri sits in the store window in the dress, increasing business, then buys the dress before returning where she comes from. Ten years later, the narrator's mother happens upon Ildri and the rest of the story: Ildri married, but not in the dress—instead, she lived the bleak life of a homesteader. This prairie chronicle, and Ildri's sudden death, are moving. Another successful story is ``The Nights of Ragna Rundhaug,'' about a woman who becomes a midwife only because there's nobody else to do the job. She delivers babies after driving through blizzards and the like for years, and survives. And ``Twilight and June'' is a haunting tale about a man in love with another man's wife. Of the rest, ``Bank Night'' is an extended anecdote, set in 1936 in Little Butte, North Dakota, concerning a hired hand who wins $250 at the movies; his lucky night results in his murder by a waitress he ``two-timed.'' ``The Sins of the Fathers,'' likewise, is a thin joke about girls and boys and a car. Part of the University of Iowa's regional Bur Oak series—and most likely to interest devotees of prairie chronicle literature.

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 1992

ISBN: 0-87745-386-1

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Univ. of Iowa

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1992

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 10

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • National Book Award Finalist


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

Did you like this book?

More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet