This is comfort-food fiction, undemanding and full of Moore’s sweet but not saccharine affection for his characters.


The three childhood friends Moore introduced in The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat (2013) are now in their early 60s and facing new challenges.

The three “Supremes” of Plainview, Indiana—a name that emphasizes the unpretentious tone of Moore’s storytelling—are down-home African-American women, except that Clarice is a concert pianist with a penchant for Beethoven, Barbara Jean is Plainview’s wealthiest philanthropist, and Odette—well, Odette talks to the dead. At the unlikely wedding of Clarice’s religious-zealot mother to the owner of a dive called the Pink Slipper Gentlemen’s Club that has only recently become “a respected music venue,” all three friends are moved by elderly blues singer El Walker’s rendition of the “Happy Heartache Blues.” And thus hangs the thread that winds a plot ever so loosely through the novel. El is actually Marcus Henry and the father of Odette’s husband, James. While a heroin addict, El abandoned his wife and small son after accidentally slicing James with a razor blade. El is off drugs, but diabetes lands him in the hospital, where his identity is revealed. As Odette tries to find a way for James and El to come to terms with each other, Clarice prepares for her big breakthrough concert in Chicago. Separated from her philandering husband, Richmond, she's enjoying her independence and their continuing active sex life, but she feels increasingly stifled by Richmond's needy desire for the kind of intimacy he withheld in the past. Recovering alcoholic Barbara Jean is in a happy second marriage and gets less page time than her friends. Subplots meander along concerning both serious issues like a father’s cruelty to his gay, cross-dressing son and sitcom clichés like a pompous, big-hatted would-be preacher lady whose hateful pretensions are exposed by an open microphone. Religion is central to most of these lives although its form ranges from fundamentalist Baptist to Unitarian.

This is comfort-food fiction, undemanding and full of Moore’s sweet but not saccharine affection for his characters.

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-10794-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • National Book Award Finalist


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?


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

Did you like this book?