An offbeat and entertaining religious drama.



From the Praying Mantis Series series , Vol. 1

Ruiz’s debut novel offers an action-packed tale with a complex cast of characters and zany moral lessons.

The story opens with fifth grader Juan Arias, a gentle, kind child who wants to become a photographer. Monty McPride is the new kid in school, and it becomes quickly apparent that he’s the worst kind of bully, as he seems to have no moral compass at all. The two grow up and lose touch with each other, but they’re still connected, as Juan’s sister, Angie, has married Ray Cromwell, who does work for Monty’s father’s pharmaceutical company, McPride Industries. Monty remains awful; for example, he spits in other people’s coffee when they aren’t looking. When Monty gets the idea that he could take the reins of his father’s company, he sets events in motion that lead to an attempted murder and a rapid downhill spiral for McPride Industries. Meanwhile, Juan finds himself playing the Easter Bunny for his sister’s kids despite having no religious leanings himself. He’s unhappy in his marriage but resigned to his uneventful life as a computer programmer. In the most supernatural turn of the book, Juan experiences a freak accident that leaves him dependent on others but also able to read minds, which requires a hefty suspension of disbelief on the part of readers. Through a series of frankly improbable occurrences, Monty, Juan, and Ray find their lives inextricably linked—and they’re all in grave danger. Throughout, Ruiz stresses the power of religious belief to turn one’s life around and the importance of doing one’s work ethically. However, the story also takes entertainingly humorous turns; jokes involving Juan’s rabbit costume serve the plot but also induce giggles. Characters find meaning in their renewed religious faith, which makes for a heartwarming and satisfying resolution. The dialogue is sharp and fun, and it advances the story at a quick pace, making for quite a page-turner.

An offbeat and entertaining religious drama.

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-9763126-2-8

Page Count: 197

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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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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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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