Romantic and tumultuous adventures that vividly distill a century of battles for women’s equality.

The Heirloom Girls

A novel follows several generations of women in a lineage inspired by an ancient amulet.

Hurricane Sandy is bearing down on New York City’s Rockaway Peninsula. Seventeen-year-old Maya Jones arrives at the Sea View Nursing Home to rescue her 105-year-old great-grandmother Maddy Rosario. Maya instructs Maddy to bring only important keepsakes, including a portrait of her mother and some framed pictures. There’s also a crystalline amulet—which can’t be found. When the women get stuck in the nursing home elevator, the narrative flashes back to 1905, to the life of Madeline Gallacuty, who’s been branded hysterical and is receiving the dismally confining Cure. While confined to her room for six weeks, she finds a crystal pendant hidden in her vanity’s drawer. An accompanying note says, “Know who you are,” signed, The Whale Rider. Once wearing the pendant, Madeline summons the strength of character to forge her own path in life, marry the man of her choosing, and become an advocate for women’s equality. Later, the meteorite-infused crystal ennobles Maddy, a fun-loving 1920s girl; Marjorie Berthe Hansman, a midcentury painter; and Mary Jane Johnson, a women’s libber active in 1970s India, to focus their talents and make strides for gender equality. Culler (101 Ways Your Mother Said You Could Die, 2015, etc.) uses a tense framing sequence to invigorate glimpses into eras when women were considered delicate, obedient, and often beneath notice. The flashbacks are rife with pointedly heartbreaking moments, as when Madeline’s cousin Lucy Fleming tells her, “Your highest duty in marriage is to suffer and be still.” Culler emphasizes not only the feminist, but the humanist perspective as well when World War I veteran Martin Amberfitch thinks: “Surely it was time to rebuild the world, not wallow in its distracting luxuries.” The nested tales are so lovingly rendered that readers will likely wish for further flashbacks to illuminate the lives of the Celtic Queen Cartimandua—in whose tomb the jewel originated—and Mr. Gallacuty’s part-Maori stepsister, The Whale Rider herself.

Romantic and tumultuous adventures that vividly distill a century of battles for women’s equality.

Pub Date: Feb. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-63521-6

Page Count: 358

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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