PRIVATE PROPERTY

STORIES

A debut collection of ten stories, mostly about women who are lonely or bereft (though the best is about a man who hits his wife): first-person narratives that too often pull their punches and too much resemble, in mood or tone, other pieces by more accomplished writers (Bobbie Ann Mason, Alice Munro, et al.). ``Tension,'' told from the point of view of a husband who one day loses control and pops his wife, is good on male midlife violence crisis-mentality. The conclusion is a bit forced but it works: The wife agrees to remain with the husband in return for having her ``eyes and chin done, my breasts lifted, and a tummy tuck.'' Later, pulling the surgical wrappings from her face, the husband is reconciled to his wife when he sees the ``mangled remnants of the face I've known best.'' Of the rest: ``The Number of My Heart'' is a long, rambling, if occasionally affecting, tale about a female Park Service Ranger and her affair with a co-worker whose wife is dying. ``The Skirt,'' about an ``assistant grants assessor in the Department of Education,'' is effectively haunted by the narrator's mother's death, and, likewise, in ``Frozen Niagara,'' the narrator is haunted by her brother's suicide. In ``River Road,'' yet another depressed young woman, who's tried ``Class 2 painkillers—Dilaudid, Percodan, Demerol'' and New York, returns home to be seduced by her doctor-father's friend, a man who sells drugs to physicians. Like others here, this one lyrically evokes a place and a mood at times, only to pull up short and let the big one get away. Immergut, even at her most successful, illuminates landscapes that have been seen already: her situations and characters tend to be more heartfelt than moving.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-394-58624-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1992

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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