Heartbreaking, occasionally humorous, and powerful, with an ending not really satisfying but certainly lingering.


The Losses

Short story writer Perlman debuts his first novel, a beautifully written, complex intergenerational drama that examines the ways family relationships shift when trust is broken.

Helen, Georgia, a small, upscale mountain town, is the setting for a Christmas/New Year’s gathering of the daughters (Sammy, Rachel, and Lottie), sons-in-law, and grandchildren of Julianne “Jules” Talmadge Beasley Lipscomb, family matriarch. Jules has been married to Harvey Lipscomb for 10 years, and he has taken her family as his own. But Harvey, a professor of gender and sexuality, has entered the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and he has been carrying a secret about his past that he knows he must share with Julianne before he can no longer remember it. His is not the only, nor the worst, secret that will rock the family. Perlman’s roots as an author of short stories are reflected in the structure of his novel. Divided into six chapters, the story of Jules and her family is told from different perspectives. In the third chapter, Perlman switches the voice from narrator to first person, temporarily handing the story over to Cliff, Sammy’s husband. Then, in the last third of the novel, as readers are settled in for the duration of the family reunion, Perlman jumps 15 or 16 years ahead to examine the consequences of secrets not yet revealed in the earlier sections. It’s a literary gamble, wrenching readers out of the warm, albeit fractious, comfort of the Lipscomb home and dumping them squarely in the debris left behind by an unanticipated treachery. Still, Perlman’s character portrayals are so visceral and poignant, we are willing to be dislocated in order to catch up with the events of the intervening years and see what has become of everyone. By the end of the narrative, readers have information that has not yet been shared with the surviving characters, information that will further tear asunder what remains of the family structure. Does Perlman intend a future novel to catch us up once again?  One can only hope. 

Heartbreaking, occasionally humorous, and powerful, with an ending not really satisfying but certainly lingering.   

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: MidTown Publishing Inc.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2016

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An exuberant comic opera set to the music of life.

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The versatile and accomplished McBride (Five Carat Soul, 2017, etc.) returns with a dark urban farce crowded with misjudged signals, crippling sorrows, and unexpected epiphanies.

It's September 1969, just after Apollo 11 and Woodstock. In a season of such events, it’s just as improbable that in front of 16 witnesses occupying the crowded plaza of a Brooklyn housing project one afternoon, a hobbling, dyspeptic, and boozy old church deacon named Cuffy Jasper "Sportcoat" Lambkin should pull out a .45-caliber Luger pistol and shoot off an ear belonging to the neighborhood’s most dangerous drug dealer. The 19-year-old victim’s name is Deems Clemens, and Sportcoat had coached him to be “the best baseball player the projects had ever seen” before he became “a poison-selling murderous meathead.” Everybody in the project presumes that Sportcoat is now destined to violently join his late wife, Hettie, in the great beyond. But all kinds of seemingly disconnected people keep getting in destiny's way, whether it’s Sportcoat’s friend Pork Sausage or Potts, a world-weary but scrupulous white policeman who’s hoping to find Sportcoat fast enough to protect him from not only Deems’ vengeance, but the malevolent designs of neighborhood kingpin Butch Moon. All their destines are somehow intertwined with those of Thomas “The Elephant” Elefante, a powerful but lonely Mafia don who’s got one eye trained on the chaos set off by the shooting and another on a mysterious quest set in motion by a stranger from his crime-boss father’s past. There are also an assortment of salsa musicians, a gentle Nation of Islam convert named Soup, and even a tribe of voracious red ants that somehow immigrated to the neighborhood from Colombia and hung around for generations, all of which seems like too much stuff for any one book to handle. But as he's already shown in The Good Lord Bird (2013), McBride has a flair for fashioning comedy whose buoyant outrageousness barely conceals both a steely command of big and small narrative elements and a river-deep supply of humane intelligence.

An exuberant comic opera set to the music of life.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1672-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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