A delightful story filled with pleasant people in a lovely setting, though it could have been told in half as many pages.

Second Thoughts: Second Chances

A meandering family saga set in small-town New York, by former creative writing instructor Moses (Train from Thompsonville, 2006).

LA-born and -bred Paul Kipnis, an art history instructor, is lured to upstate New York’s Ely College by his father’s first cousin Viktor, whom Paul had met at his mother’s memorial service. Shortly thereafter, Paul’s dramatic sister, Rachel, summons him to their father’s LA home because their father, Mitchell, suffers what appears to be a heart ailment. Paul—accompanied by Viktor, an old friend of his father’s—visits Mitchell, and the three decide on an extended stay with Viktor and his adopted daughter, Corinna, in Thompsonville, New York. Mitchell moves in, and the arrangement works remarkably well. The only conflict occurs when Mitchell suspects—accurately—that Paul has developed an attraction to Corinna, who’s engaged to the scion of a wealthy New York City Jewish family for whom an immigrant goy from a small town is just not acceptable. Paul deals with his feelings by avoiding Corinna, whose engagement to Syd Steinberg drifts on interminably, despite their estrangement and infrequent visits. Syd abandons his graduate studies and, after his brother is killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, enters the world of New York finance, a move that spells the end of his relationship with Corinna. Unfortunately, the time line becomes muddled midway through the story, with the narrative jumping from one year to another (backward and forward) for no good reason. Likewise, a solid edit is needed to clear up some narrative inconsistencies. Nevertheless, with an adeptly drawn portrayal of Thompsonville, Moses offers likable characters in an enjoyable story despite the shortage of action and plot. 

A delightful story filled with pleasant people in a lovely setting, though it could have been told in half as many pages.

Pub Date: March 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5035-3471-1

Page Count: 398

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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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