Existential dread takes on new meaning in a fantastical tale of shifting realities, second-chance romance, and unwanted...

MS. NEVER

In Dodds’ (Watershed, 2017, etc.) novel, an office worker with supernatural powers begins a relationship with a telecommunications tycoon whose dark, metaphysical secret is equally startling.

Farya Navurian lived on a version of Earth in which the glorious Greater Majestic Anointed Commonwealth of Ohio spanned a continent and her famous astronaut father was a deep-space ambassador. However, it didn’t last because Farya has a mysterious, apocalyptic ability: If she lets her attention wander and daydreams, tracts of reality simply diminish and dissolve, as if they’d never happened. Formerly large cities, such as Camden, New York, are suddenly unremarkable towns, and Ohio becomes a mundane Rust Belt state. During these paradigm shifts, millions of people vanish; only a handful (notably, Farya’s surprisingly easygoing best pal, Ethan) retain memories of incredible, lost cultures and loved ones. Guilt-ridden Farya winds up a downtrodden Jersey City office worker. Meanwhile, wealthy Metacom boss Bryan Lomoigne faces a dilemma. He wittily included a fine-print clause in his company’s cellphone contracts that grants Metacom “Non-Mortal Element Rights” from anyone signing up for their cheap gadgets; in other words, his customers sell their souls to him. Some buy them back at heavy cost, but it’s basically a side hustle for Bryan, who’s the son of a deceased, dissolute rock star who fathered a large number of children. Faced with middle age and a failing marriage, Bryan wants to sell his business and devote himself to buying back his father’s song catalog. But Metacom has unusual business partners who have alarming methods of enforcing their will. When Bryan and Farya meet at a record swap—Thelonious Monk tunes help her maintain her equilibrium—they embark on a relationship despite the considerable paranormal baggage they both try to keep out of sight.  Dodds offers a transfixing, fantastic narrative that first seems like two separate, weird tales. It’s a fabulist, careening plot that’s reminiscent of the late-career, anything-goes fiction of Kurt Vonnegut (such as 1997’s Timequake). The author executes the story with exacting, direct prose and characters who live and breathe in the mind even as their own realities seem built on shifting ground. He keeps the tale moving forward with sublime aplomb even though, at numerous points, the material could have easily gone off the rails. The vanished, fondly recalled Greater Majestic Anointed Commonwealth of Ohio, for example, is only sparingly hinted at; it wasn’t a paradise, but it certainly made for an interesting home address. Although that particular bit of business might serve as a nice metaphor for the mindsets of imaginative SF/fantasy readers who long to escape dreary daily reality, this is too broad and rich a work to pigeonhole as a collection of inside jokes. Instead, it shows great psychological and philosophical nuance, ruminating on relationships, family, commerce, art, sacrifice—and reading the fine print of company terms and conditions. Overall, readers will find it to be an exceptional work.  

Existential dread takes on new meaning in a fantastical tale of shifting realities, second-chance romance, and unwanted business partners.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9721805-9-7

Page Count: 402

Publisher: Dodds Amalgamated

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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