A sweeping, poignant tale of love, war, and the pain of political disenchantment.

ENGAGEMENT

A NOVEL

An idealistic soldier deployed to Iraq and his new wife wrestle with the emotional fallout of an ugly, protracted war in Gelberg’s (Fertility, 2013, etc.) novel.

Tomas Jorgensen and Sunny Adler were sweethearts in high school, and remained so when they both graduated from college in 2003. In some ways, though, they couldn’t be more different—Tomas is a patriotic West Point cadet, and Sunny is a student at Vassar College, preparing for a career in education. His graduation speech is delivered by Vice President Dick Cheney and offers a rousing call to public duty, while hers is by writer Susan Sontag, who inspires the crowd with a dissident’s critique of government. They marry at the West Point chapel in the Jewish faith—Maj. Arnold Weinstein, a rabbi who serves as the couple’s spiritual mentor, officiates the ceremony—and the two settle into a new life together. In the beginning, their principal challenge is prolonged separation; after Tomas’ first post at Fort Drum in upstate New York, he’s selected for Army Ranger school in Georgia. Sunny throws herself into her new job as a first-grade teacher and into maintaining the household to dampen the pain of his absence. Meanwhile, Tomas, excited and anxious about the prospect of combat, finally gets orders to deploy with his brigade to Iraq. Soon, though, he and his fellow troops are enraged by the incompetence and mendacity of the nation’s political leadership and demoralized by mounting casualties. Gelberg demonstrates extraordinary restraint, allowing the couple’s collective disillusionment to build slowly but affectingly. The tenderness of their love, and its resilience, are truly endearing, and their relationship is captured in simple but often powerful prose. For example, the terrifying possibility that Tomas could die yanks Sunny into a reality that she hasn’t thought through; she tells Tomas before his deployment: “All those field exercises, I knew you loved them. The whole thing seemed like an elaborate version of man-camp.” But that “man-camp” was training for war, and Gelberg goes on to show that both Tomas and Sunny are emotionally unprepared for the danger he faces. Overall, this is a story that transcends political partisanship, and it’s resonant because it manages to be not only topical, but also timeless.

A sweeping, poignant tale of love, war, and the pain of political disenchantment.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5397-7127-2

Page Count: 392

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2016

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

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

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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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