In this day of trophy hunting and ivory poaching, a timely and soulful elephant tale with complex characters.



A novel recounts the experiences of an eclectic group of conservationists, scientists, and safari guides sent on a dangerous expedition to Tsavo National Park in Kenya.

It is 1979, a decade after overpopulation followed by a major drought resulted in the deaths of more than 6,000 of the 30,000 elephants in Tsavo. In their search for food and water, the elephants knocked down trees and trampled foliage, leaving behind a barren wasteland. Now the animals appear to be back. Nobody knows how many there are, but they are once again being hunted by poachers. The International Endangered Species Consortium is funding a safari to count the herds and to determine whether the environment is viable as an elephant sanctuary. Four scientists, two leading conservationists, three experienced guides, and one Maasai game warden make up the diverse coalition of American, British, and African adventurers crossing into the hot and dusty plains of Tsavo to save the elephants. Bruce Airley, a British-American in his mid-40s who was raised in Africa and has a complicated backstory, leads an ensemble cast of characters who find themselves threatened by lions, leopards, deadly poachers, and a hostile indigenous tribe (the Waliangulu) fond of shooting small poison arrows. Plus there are personal challenges—conflicting egos, long-standing rivalries, inner demons—that must be overcome if the group is to survive. Botkin (25 Myths that Are Destroying the Environment, 2015) and debut author Melcher weave together the former’s own field experiences and observations, creating a realistic fictional overlay for the discussion of ivory poaching and human interference with nature. The most beautiful—and most painful—passages center on the magnificent “jumbo” elephants, especially Zamani Baba, the biggest of the big, oldest of the old. He is powerful, fierce, intelligent, and tender: “As the old bull approached, the other two turned their heads toward him. He came alongside and stopped, and, putting his trunk over each, one at a time, rubbed their backs.” The human drama is action-filled and engaging, but it is the elephants that will likely bring readers to tears.

In this day of trophy hunting and ivory poaching, a timely and soulful elephant tale with complex characters.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-949574-04-3

Page Count: 388

Publisher: Book Vine Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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