A smart, unorthodox, and delectable superpower tale.


A man burdened by visions featuring multilingual words possesses a remarkable ability some believe could threaten the world in this thriller.

Caught in a wildfire, California teacher Jon Wanamaker and his bus driver friend, Ernie Renssalear, dodge an unknown assailant’s gunshots. As if that weren’t enough, they later find floating in nearby Lake Isadora a bottle with a brain and note inside. The cryptic note references the Upsweep Project and Amelynd Island, both of which reporter Remedy Conover learns about for an article she’s writing. She’s shocked to discover that four years ago, every human subject in Upsweep, a secret government-funded study, died except one—her ex-husband, Jon. Since the project, Jon has intermittently seen words, like printed text, overwhelm his field of vision. The words appear as “ribbons” (digital ribbon boards) and in multiple languages, including Tlingit of Jon’s Native American clan. But they also lead Jon to an extraordinary ability; some associated with Upsweep want him to develop this power while others, such as the gunman at the wildfire, consider him too dangerous to live. Various parties converge in Sirretta Valley to either help Jon or somehow ensure he doesn’t become a menace. Cray’s (Piercing Maybe, 2018, etc.) twisty tale unravels at a frantic pace. Plot turns make some of the characters all the more striking: Individuals from Jon’s Alaskan hometown, for example, blame him for the death of a young girl. Furthermore, the story explores multiple sclerosis-afflicted Remedy, whose disability is a condition, not a flaw. It even precipitates the indelible image of the reporter using a kitchen broom as an aid instead of a cane. Little can be said regarding Jon’s ability without spoiling the narrative. But it’s on full dizzying display in a smashing final act that should leave readers debating who the real villain is—or if there is one. Unsurprisingly, the prose is linguistically appealing: “Firefly-like sparkles flashed as daylight caught the tiny shards of glass sprinkled across the man’s filthy cheeks.”

A smart, unorthodox, and delectable superpower tale.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-940317-08-3

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Third Quandary Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 18

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • National Book Award Finalist


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

Did you like this book?

Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s...


 The traumatic homecoming of a wounded warrior.

The daughter of alcoholics who left her orphaned at 17, Jolene “Jo” Zarkades found her first stable family in the military: She’s served over two decades, first in the army, later with the National Guard. A helicopter pilot stationed near Seattle, Jo copes as competently at home, raising two daughters, Betsy and Lulu, while trying to dismiss her husband Michael’s increasing emotional distance. Jo’s mettle is sorely tested when Michael informs her flatly that he no longer loves her. Four-year-old Lulu clamors for attention while preteen Betsy, mean-girl-in-training, dismisses as dweeby her former best friend, Seth, son of Jo’s confidante and fellow pilot, Tami. Amid these challenges comes the ultimate one: Jo and Tami are deployed to Iraq. Michael, with the help of his mother, has to take over the household duties, and he rapidly learns that parenting is much harder than his wife made it look. As Michael prepares to defend a PTSD-afflicted veteran charged with Murder I for killing his wife during a dissociative blackout, he begins to understand what Jolene is facing and to revisit his true feelings for her. When her helicopter is shot down under insurgent fire, Jo rescues Tami from the wreck, but a young crewman is killed. Tami remains in a coma and Jo, whose leg has been amputated, returns home to a difficult rehabilitation on several fronts. Her nightmares in which she relives the crash and other horrors she witnessed, and her pain, have turned Jo into a person her daughters now fear (which in the case of bratty Betsy may not be such a bad thing). Jo can't forgive Michael for his rash words. Worse, she is beginning to remind Michael more and more of his homicide client. Characterization can be cursory: Michael’s earlier callousness, left largely unexplained, undercuts the pathos of his later change of heart. 

Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s aftermath.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

Did you like this book?