BUTTERFLY SUNDAY

A gorgeous crazy quilt of a novel, filled with saints and sinners bent on mayhem, southern-style.

Against her will, a Mississippi preacher’s wife is drawn into a web of madness and murder.

Plagued by troubling visions after the mysterious death of her newborn daughter, Leona Sayres steels herself to murder her husband Averill—whom she believes strangled the infant, then buried the tiny body in the woods. Using rat poison, Leona slowly and skillfully does in the oblivious Averill, but she’s stricken with remorse when he suffers an agonizing death. There are others, meanwhile, who secretly rejoice that the fire-and-brimstone fundamentalist went to hell in a hurry, although there’s no shortage of mourners at his funeral. Averill Sayres was undeniably handsome and known for his sexually charged sermons. More than one woman in the congregation found a kind of sensual salvation in his arms—and would have been equally happy to tear out his cheatin’ heart. Now, a temporary sheriff, Blue Hudson, is brought in to investigate, and, later, shocked—but not surprised—to discover that there were a lot of people with reasons to kill Averill. He’s not at all sure that Leona did the deed, and her vulnerability softens his stalwart heart. Blue Hudson is a man as true as his first name (with a tragic history of his own, like everyone in this richly textured story), and he falls in love with Leona as he searches for the culprit. No one is above suspicion—except, perhaps, Leona’s friend Soames Churchill, the serene young widow of a wealthy and corrupt plantation owner. Soames, a consummate southern belle, is a porcelain-skinned beauty with impeccable taste in the clothes, antiques, and men she collects—although she’s not at all as well-bred and well-meaning as the gullible townsfolk believe. But who’s to tell? Enter Darthula, a poor, elderly black woman with “the sight,” who dresses in brilliantly-colored rags and lives in the haunted swamp—and knows what the respectable people in town most want to keep hidden. Will she reveal the truth at the dark heart of this elegantly constructed mystery? Trust Hill (Sacred Dust, 1996), a master of melodrama who deftly employs time shifts and a style at once spare and lurid, to unfold this gothic tale.

A gorgeous crazy quilt of a novel, filled with saints and sinners bent on mayhem, southern-style.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2000

ISBN: 0-385-31862-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2000

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 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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