A provocative character study of a —mad housewife— at odds with her family and community is the most interesting feature of this ambitious, flawed third novel from the Montana author of Rima in the Weeds (1991) and One Sweet Quarrel (1994). The story’s narrated by Francesca Woodbridge, a former public relations consultant who takes a vacation from her husband Renton (—Ren—) and teenaged son (Mack), while the former is laboriously recuperating after being shot by an unknown burglar. That’s improbability number one. While in Greece, Francesca leaves her tour group (ostensibly for a private trip to nearby islands); fabricates a new identity; then flies back to the States, holing up in a motel not far from her home, and spends a week in disguise, walking about her neighborhood incognito, observing—unrecognized, except by a neighbor’s dog (improbability number two), until a random stabbing incident blows her cover. McNamer’s shuttling narrative juxtaposes Francesca’s intrigue-laden week with fragmented memories of her girlhood, disappointing marriage (to an attorney who evolved from liberal firebrand to spokesman for polluters and calculating social climber), and affairs (most notably with Yuri, their former Russian gardener, who inevitably becomes a prime suspect for that shooting). Francesca returns to Greece, then back home, as expected—but for a surprising climax in which that intruder’s identity is revealed; a corollary to her unillusioned discovery that —exhilaration has virtually nothing to do with loyalty or kindness and everything to do with the experience of your own powers.— This is a curious novel, with an oddly opaque protagonist who doesn’t really know why she acts as she does. Sometimes that’s arrestingly dramatic; more often, it translates as McNamer’s failure to make her believable. McNamer’s edgy, graveyard-witty, borderline-wisecracking voice has its charms, but this time out it’s largely wasted on a character and a situation that are hard to care about.

Pub Date: June 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-95637-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.


Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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
  • 13

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?