A breezily funny story of heartache and romantic opportunity.

RUNNING THE COBBLESTONES

In this debut novel, tragic circumstances inspire a woman to flee to Ireland in search of a fresh start. 

Kate McMahon’s husband, Bryan, dies while swimming—it’s unclear if it’s an accident or a suicide—and while grieving, she discovers that he ran a financial Ponzi scheme that fleeced many out of their savings. Utterly disgraced in the news reports, she sells everything she owns, makes restitution to those Bryan defrauded, and leaves Minnesota for Glasnevin, Ireland. Kate spent a semester there while in college—she met Bryan there—and finds solace in familiar faces. She buys an old bed and breakfast, the McFadden Guesthouse; renames it The Cobblestones; and opens it for business. Still emotionally bruised from the death of her husband, Kate isn’t on the prowl for a new man, but she meets fellow American expatriate Luke O’Brien, a journalist who moved to Ireland from San Francisco after his wife died. Their budding romance, though, is not only frustrated by Kate’s hesitation, but also the interference from a computer repairman, Ultan Ferrian, who pines for her at first sight and tirelessly stalks her. Ultan, a sociopath, delights in torturing others with his Taser. He mercilessly terrorizes Michael Farley, Kate’s gardener and friend, who competes as a swimmer in the Special Olympics. Ultan becomes both increasingly frustrated and dangerous, and this love story takes a turn in a darker direction. MacDonald is the nom de plume of a mother-daughter writing team: Cecilia MacDonald and Kathryn Schneeman. Their writing is comically sharp and lively, and the novel’s pace is quick and energetic. Kate is surrounded by an eclectic ensemble cast of quirky characters, but she still shines through as the most fully developed—beleaguered but still hopeful. But the story splits into two jarringly incongruent parts: a lighthearted romantic comedy and a violent thriller that places Kate in the cross hairs of a deeply disturbed man. While both sections are skillfully sketched, the transition from the former to the latter is at the very least peculiar, and even clumsy. Nonetheless, the heart of the book—the cheerful story of Kate’s second chance—remains a companionable read that delivers easy entertainment without demanding much of the audience.

A breezily funny story of heartache and romantic opportunity. 

Pub Date: April 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63505-609-9

Page Count: 331

Publisher: Mill City Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

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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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