ONE SWEET QUARREL

A woman and her two brothers come of age in early 20th-century America in this warm, perceptive second novel from the author of Rima in the Weeds (1990). In 1973, the oldest residents of Shelby, Mont., have gathered in the local grade school's multipurpose room to receive a ``tribute'' from an unctuous former citizen, television actor Michael Cage. Cage wants to write a screenplay about the world heavyweight boxing championship held between Jack Dempsey and Tommy Gibbons in Shelby back in 1923, but he'll need the oldsters' help if he's to do a creditable job; hence the tribute, though the senior citizens themselves have other plans for this event. Daisy Lou Malone takes advantage of the speechifying to recall her youth in turn-of-the-century Minnesota, when she dreamed of being a singer but first had to care for her ailing mother. While Daisy Lou waited for her mom to die, her older brother Carlton set out on his own career as an all-around hustler while her remaining sibling, Jerry, went off to homestead land outside Shelby. By the time Daisy Lou arrived in New York—changing her name to Amelia, recording a few demo records, and performing at churches—it was the 1920's, and her fluttery personality had become as outdated as her musical style. Things could have been worse, though: at least Amelia avoided Jerry's bitterly hard frontier existence, whose only possible redemption would come in the form of an oil well. After the oil boom had passed, prodding Shelby's desperate citizens to dream up the championship fight as a way to lure investment dollars, innocent Amelia decided to come for a visit. The fight changed her life so decisively that she never again left Shelby, but found herself, instead, sitting in the multipurpose room 50 years later, flanked by a scheming brother and an ex-husband, conscientiously preparing for her final song. A pleasurable dip into a long-lost time with its nearly extinct brand of Americans—accomplished, entertaining fiction.

Pub Date: March 16, 1994

ISBN: 0-06-016868-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1994

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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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