A poignant and sophisticated work couched in lyrical, effervescent prose.

THE PATHLESS SKY

Reeling from personal tragedy, a young couple struggles to navigate political violence in their unnamed homeland and rebuild their marriage.

“It mattered to him that he woke up alone,” Sen's debut novel begins. John is upset and angry to find his wife, Mariam, once again asleep on the floor of the empty nursery that was supposed to house their stillborn baby daughter. Mariam’s ongoing pain is, to John, a personal affront that is splitting their marriage apart. But when the militia storms their workplace and Mariam is kidnapped, John’s only concern is for her safety. This present-day drama then flashes back to the story of young John and Mariam at university—their chance meeting on a bridge, growing connection, and John’s regretted detour into a relationship with Mariam’s friend Nina. Mariam and John soon marry and move back to his hometown. Life for the newlyweds moves along smoothly as John finishes his dissertation and advances in his career—complicated only by the denial of Mariam’s passport in the middle of the growing violence of the military state. Desperate to travel overseas, John decides to purchase forged papers for the family. But the loss of their newborn baby devastates Mariam; John, feeling abandoned, begins to think he and Mariam should separate. Here, the novel's past catches up to the present and jumps back into the story of Mariam's disappearance. This debut novel is a searingly vivid portrayal of the depths of human emotions—from the first glow of young love to the deeper strength of middle-aged commitment. Although the flashback structure—in which the bulk of the novel occurs in the past—leaves the reader hungry for the present-tense storyline of Mariam’s kidnapping, this device does create a suspenseful mystery which haunts the narrative.

A poignant and sophisticated work couched in lyrical, effervescent prose.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-60945-291-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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