WILDERNESS

A man and a woman fall for each other, but this is a love story with a difference: the woman happens to be a werewolf. (David Garnett's Lady Into Fox is this first novel's next-of- kin.) Alice White was 13 when she first turned into a wolf, on her family's Virginia farm: ``It was the most joyous event of her young life.'' Since then, every full moon, she has become a wolf, turning human again by dawn. Now Alice is 32, and the playful wolf in the woods is a distant memory. After a grisly episode in which her wolf-self killed a farmhand about to rape her, Alice kept human contact to a minimum. She moved to Richmond, locking herself in the basement at full moons; instead of a boyfriend, she has had a series of one-night stands. Then two things happen: she sees a psychiatrist, and though Dr. Adams does not believe her ``delusions,'' he shows her how she can, through self- hypnosis, summon or banish the wolf at will. Second, Alice and her university adviser, wildlife biologist Erik Summers, fall in love. Making love to Erik, she rediscovers the freedom of the woods; she tells him her story. Fearful and unconvinced, Eric betrays Alice by turning to his manipulative ex-wife Debra; in a jealous fury, Alice forces Debra to witness a woman-to-wolf transformation, then flees to a Canadian wolf sanctuary, pursued by a remorseful Erik. Though Alice might be a National Enquirer item, Danvers's whole idea is to embed her in an ordinary world of messy relationships. Ironically, while he succeeds absolutely with the extraordinary (the images of Alice's transformations are stunningly right), he flounders elsewhere, diluting the intensity of Alice and Erik's love affair through the use of four different viewpoints and gratuitous excursions into the shrink's private life. Still, the novel is just bold and piquant enough to give it a shot at the best-seller lists.

Pub Date: May 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-671-72827-X

Page Count: -

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1991

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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