All too short but powerful; beautifully written, well-observed and effective.

IN ALL THINGS

A RETURN TO THE DROOLING WARD

A 17-year-old undergoes training as a psychiatric technician at a California state hospital in this fictionalized memoir.

Davis (Road Stories, 2013) bases this novel on his experience in a training program for psychiatric technicians at then–Sonoma State Hospital in Eldridge, California, beginning in 1970 when he was 17. Noting that the book is fictional, Davis states that he has “taken some liberties to serve the story. But the place and the people are just as I remember them.” Davis skillfully evokes the setting with its hierarchies, routines, customs and varied characters. A shift supervisor explains the classifications for one ward: “The Thunderbirds…are mostly high functioning morons. The Falcons are mostly imbeciles, The Ravens mostly mongoloids with a few cretins.” The narrator’s tour that day ends in a small outdoor yard: “The Thunderbirds, Falcons and Ravens were all there; sitting or rocking or staring up at the sky through the fencing that sealed off the top of the space as well as the walls.” Medications, the narrator learns, “did most of the supervising.” Characteristic of the book as a whole, the quiet contrast here between the patients’ soaring bird names and the reality of their caged lives is the more poignant for its understatement. There are few snake-pit horrors here, but more prevalent is the sadness that results when the best solutions available are bad ones. When a trainee trying to restore range of motion pushes a little too far, “the sound of her case study’s arm breaking echoed through the ward like a branch snapping in the forest.” The narrator’s compassion, the way he listens to and really looks at his patients, is a reminder of the possibilities for connection even among the grimmest surroundings, balanced by an acknowledgement of the limitations. Gerald, for example, is a hard case known for biting (until his teeth were pulled out) and running away (until an orthopedic surgeon’s operation prevents it). The narrator manages to build a tentative, fragile understanding with Gerald, but even so, he can’t give him the freedom he craves.

All too short but powerful; beautifully written, well-observed and effective.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0986069727

Page Count: 86

Publisher: The Wedgewood Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 19

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

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

Did you like this book?

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more