Hardly groundbreaking, but a beach tote couldn’t ask for more.

SEVEN YEAR SWITCH

Another female-empowering, feel-good novel from Cook, who in this seventh outing (The Wildwater Walking Club, 2009, etc.) cautions against the return of the bad husband.

Jill gets by, but just barely. Seven years ago, her husband Seth left for Africa and the Peace Corps with little more than a goodbye note, leaving Jill and their three-year-old daughter Anastasia destitute. Slowly Jill has built a modest life for herself—she owns a house (luckily the questionable neighborhood has become safely gentrified) and has a few jobs that pay the bills: offering weekly lessons in international cuisine at the community center; as a call operator at Great Girlfriend Getaways; and the occasional consulting gig in international relations. Jill is smart, but working herself up from the nothing that Seth left her with has taken its toll. Just as the present is beginning to seem pretty good, Seth returns. After seven years without a call or letter, let alone child support, Seth is hoping Jill and Anastasia will forgive him. Anastasia is thrilled to have a daddy and the gifts are great; Jill is seething. Everything becomes quickly complicated: Seth and Anastasia are developing a wonderful relationship; Seth wants to return to their marriage; then Jill and Seth sleep together, and, really, it wasn’t so bad. Jill wonders if she shouldn’t just forgive Seth and allow the three of them to move on. But then there’s Billy, a client of Jill’s who is smart and funny and grown up in ways Seth never was. What’s a gal to do? Go to Costa Rica on a Girlfriend Getaway and hope a little yoga, belly dancing and girl time will sort it all out. Cook hits her marks—exploring the role of single women as they try to navigate work and family—all with good-natured humor and a little examination of what it means to be independent (it’s not all fun).

Hardly groundbreaking, but a beach tote couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: June 8, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4013-4116-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Strebor/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2010

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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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