BENEDICTION AT THE SAVOIA

An ingratiating first novel that centers on the growth of a young woman whose mores and judgments were shaped within the solidly Irish-Catholic blue-collar neighborhood of Jackson Heights (20 minutes to Manhattan by subway). The story of Delia Mary Delaney, nÇe Rooney—set in the early 60's and before—pops and hums with a multitude of depth-sounding recognitions so acute in sound and sight that the reader is home in the Heights after a few pages. When 19-year-old Delia became pregnant by huge, handsome Maurice Delaney—who was going to marry her anyway—Mae Rooney had to tell her husband Denis, Delia's volatile father. Denis kicked her and kicked her—after all, she'd disgraced them—but Denis (one of 12 children of a wild woman in Ireland) died just before Delia's baby Maureen was born. Maurice, now a cop, is a drinker like Denis, but he's a good man. There are flashbacks to the wedding (tacky, loving, hilarious), the first three months of a screaming baby—the frenzy and aching love, devotions at the altar of housework—and, in the apartment downstairs, there's also Mae, that ``Queen of Saints,'' devoted mother and grandmother, crazily prejudiced, loudmouthed, ever-scrubbing, ever-cooking, ever-present tyrant. Brothers (both fallen away from early promise), friends, neighbors come into focus, along with disastrous trips away—cold and desertion in Manhattan; a beer-soaked Maurice, and anger at the beach. It is a tragedy as close as her heart that dooms, and then saves, Delia for a new start in one day of shocking laughter and joy. A remarkable evocation of a tight little island peopled by pre-Vatican II Irish and a younger generation, unlike their mothers, brogue-less, but ``not-quite ready to move on.'' From the fly-specked windows of the Shamrock Bar, in the ``damp air under the el,'' to the cemetery opposite Arthur's Discounts—it's real and warms the heart.

Pub Date: June 22, 1992

ISBN: 0-15-111810-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1992

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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