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HE COULD BE ANOTHER BILL GATES

Too many voices fragment the main story arc of this complex and insightful rendering of contemporary love and family.

A novel explores relationships, romance, and autism spectrum disorders.

On the first day of school at San Francisco’s George Takei High, sophomore Jack Kagen, diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, and his almost 40-year-old divorced mom, Anna, both meet their future loves. Despite Jack’s communication difficulties, he pursues his classmate Ashleigh Allen, who takes him on as a well-intentioned project. Anna has her hands full; as she puts it, “I had a job, two kids, no husband.” While strongly attracted to Jason Armstrong, a police officer, she must also defend herself against ex-husband and District Attorney Alex’s barbed comments and plots to ensure the success of their 5-year-old precocious daughter, Marissa. Jason finds his way into Anna’s heart but so does his teenage son, Trevor, who is also on the autism spectrum. They seem destined to become a family until ex-spouses cause trouble and Anna fears her children won’t be safe unless Jason and Trevor leave their lives. Meanwhile, Jack discovers Ashleigh’s secret and calls on all his abilities and courage to pursue her before she departs. Levin’s (There’s More Than One Way Home, 2017, etc.) tale employs multiple points of view: Jack’s, Anna’s, Ashleigh’s, and Marissa’s. Only Anna’s is first person, guiding the reader to align most closely with her. Her sections have the sexy, romantic vibe that will likely appeal to adult readers: “His shirt was tight across his broad chest,” she notes during her first encounter with Jason. Later, during a time apart, she laments: “I ached to feel the cotton of his uniform sleeves sliding against my skin.” Jack’s teenage point of view is striking for the glimpse it provides into Asperger’s. Words elude Jack, but he persists: “ ‘It’s something like…something like….’ The words were dangling up high in his brain.” Ashleigh’s and Marissa’s points of view are intriguing but divert readers from Anna’s and Jack’s compelling sections.

Too many voices fragment the main story arc of this complex and insightful rendering of contemporary love and family.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9997569-3-5

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Chickadee Prince Books

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2018

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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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FIREFLY LANE

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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