A hypnotic tale of family secrets that also features delightfully silly humor.


Two troubled lives intersect in a novel combining cozy mystery, comedy, and reflections on fractured relationships.

Mark is a 30-something financial planner from Chicago who inherits his long-lost aunt’s house in Michigan’s rural Upper Peninsula, near Canada. He’s extremely phobic about driving on bridges, so he can only reach his late Aunt Vivian’s home in tiny Manistique by closing his eyes and letting a volunteer driver take him across the roughly 5-mile Mackinac Bridge. Emily, a 24-year-old medical school graduate, is traumatized after hitting a deer with her car while lost in thought about an adulterous affair and a mistake that caused a patient’s death. Stranded in Manistique while awaiting windshield repairs, she seeks shelter at Vivian’s house, which is also be a bed-and-breakfast. Mark, the only person there, is caught off guard, but he tries to accommodate her. He soon becomes, in his own words, “the worst innkeeper imaginable.” Cuesta creates an eccentric cast of townies and further houseguests, including a narcoleptic tourist who’s attempting to be the first person to ever drive around Lake Michigan in an electric car. Along the way, he use his characters’ foibles to deliver Fawlty Towers-style farce, as when Mark ineptly tries to hide the demise of an elderly houseguest. But there’s a sober side to the novel, as well, such as when Vivian’s handyman, Bear Foot, starts a fire in the backyard to help Vivian’s “thundering spirit” journey to the next world. Mark only met his aunt once, as a young child, and he knows little about her except that she was adopted, worked as an international aid doctor in war zones, and figured in his memory like a “saint”; he marvels when Bear Foot talks about her Native American heritage. Cuesta ping-pongs between Mark’s and Emily’s stories before smoothly bringing them together as more houseguests arrive and the young doctor discovers a book containing one of Vivian’s essays. Throughout the novel, the author’s descriptions of Upper Peninsula settings are simple yet evocative, as when Mark releases Vivian’s ashes into a lake and they form “a mesmerizing cloud beneath the surface.”

A hypnotic tale of family secrets that also features delightfully silly humor.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-73241-090-9

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Celestial Eyes Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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