A pleasant read for both its lush tropical setting and uplifting message.

Imperfect Paradise

In Dembiczak’s debut novel, a woman on her honeymoon discovers deep truths about herself as she explores the paradise of Hawaii.

Sarah Chizeck weds her longtime boyfriend, Michael, a hotshot businessman in Silicon Valley. She’s college-educated and artistically talented but perpetually plagued by self-doubt. She and Michael marry in San Francisco, but as their supportive friends and family members congratulate them and comment on Sarah’s “radiant” appearance, she’s already making excuses for herself and silently regretting her betrothal. Sarah had relinquished her art-world career after getting engaged, and with a new life as a homemaker on the horizon, she begins to question her identity. She and Michael set off on their Hawaiian honeymoon, and he plays golf during the day as she drinks, naps and gorges herself on desserts in their suite, subconsciously punishing herself for her doubts. But when she meets Kalei, a handsome young concierge, she begins to truly enjoy her vacation and the beauty of the island. Kalei turns Sarah’s world upside down, and her attraction to him becomes a catalyst for important self-discoveries. Dembiczak paints a realistic, first-person portrait of a woman at her wits’ end. Sarah isn’t the most likable character; she’s flawed and often frustrating but very real, serving up plenty of self-deprecating humor on every page, as when she describes “a kind of tired that comes from living within oneself for too long.” She’s a poignant example of a woman who settles for comfort and security, and readers get the thrill of watching those priorities unravel; at one point, Sarah describes herself as “a bored housewife concocting her own dilemma to convince herself she was still complicated.” Overall, although this novel’s protagonist is no grand heroine, she’s definitely relatable and easy for readers to root for.

A pleasant read for both its lush tropical setting and uplifting message.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1493742592

Page Count: 192

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2014

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

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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