SO LONG AT THE FAIR

A true American tragedy, full of love as well as despair.

Following one crucial day in a marriage tottering on the brink, Schwarz (All Is Vanity, 2002, etc.) shows the fragility, complexity and danger inherent in love.

In a small Wisconsin community in 1963, Walter has sex with Hattie that she claims was rape but he claims was consensual. Hattie’s pregnant friend Marie wants her husband, rising golf star Bud, to defend Hattie’s honor. But Bud believes Walter’s version so Marie—who has her own motives for revenge—uses Hattie’s former boyfriend, bookish Clark, to turn Bud against Walter, son of Bud’s major backer. Skip ahead 40 years to Madison, Wis. Jon, the son of Bud and Marie, has been having an affair with Freddi, his co-worker at an ad agency, but he still loves his landscape architect wife Ginny, Hattie and Clark’s daughter. Jon and Ginny became high school sweethearts after Ginny was injured in an accident for which Jon has always felt responsible but which Ginny has always considered her own fault. With occasional splices back to 1963, the novel covers the crucial Saturday when Jon is deciding whether to stay with Ginny or leave their long marriage for Freddi. As a step toward reconciliation, he plans to take Ginny to a music festival they’ve attended in the past, but Ginny has mixed up her dates and made other, business appointments. Frustrated and hurt, Jon ends up at the festival with Freddi, who carries her own emotional baggage, including a stalker who thinks Freddi is his girlfriend. Ginny’s business appointment is with Walter, who readers quickly suspect may be her real father instead of overprotective, doting Clark. Misconnections and misunderstandings mount as the characters—not just Jon and Ginny, but their parents, their friends and acquaintances—make choices drawing them closer and closer to inevitable disaster. While the manufactured quality of the 1963 story line is a minor problem, Schwarz’s portrait of Jon and Ginny’s loving but damaged marriage is unsparing and heartbreaking.

A true American tragedy, full of love as well as despair.

Pub Date: July 8, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-385-51029-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2008

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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