An entertaining, if familiar, account of a midlife crisis in America.

THE YEAR MARJORIE MOORE LEARNED TO LIVE

A debut novel unspools one year in the life of a disillusioned and self-destructive woman in a Dallas exurb.

Marjorie Moore is not satisfied. But this is hardly a new development. According to her parents, when she started learning to talk, Marjorie’s first word was “more,” though this might have been due in part to their negligent style. Now, age 40, she has a husband and two kids and lives in an “incomplete house, in an incomplete neighborhood…in Prairie Mound, a suburb of a suburb, near the suburb where she had grown up—but farther away from, rather than closer to, Dallas itself.” She drinks a lot of wine and pops Ambien and Xanax, either because she’s bored or addicted to them (she isn’t quite sure). She works as a receptionist at the local hospital, which makes it easy to get the pills. She’d love to go to Paris, though she finds that her compulsive shopping has been eating up a lot of the family’s financial resources. Really, it only makes sense for her to start selling pills to her friends as a way to make extra cash, and it certainly makes her life a little more interesting. So does renewing an old, flirtatious acquaintance with Stephen Singleton, a friend from high school whom she always had a bit of a crush on. As the months pass, her various secret behaviors become more and more serious, and the reasons that Marjorie has for doing them become less important than the fact that they may cause her to lose everything. Grotheim’s prose is bouncy and biting. She perfectly captures the worldview of Marjorie, who is slightly aware of her self-deluding tendencies (though not as aware of them as readers): “She would have preferred being called Marjorie, which was her given name and sounded sophisticated, like royalty, she thought. Resentful of her parents shortening it to Margie, a fatty’s name when in fact she was not, she had made better choices for her own kids.” The author’s voice and her strong sense of pacing make this a highly readable book even if the subject matter remains well-trod territory.

An entertaining, if familiar, account of a midlife crisis in America.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-942762-46-1

Page Count: 213

Publisher: Heliotrope Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2019

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

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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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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