A peculiar but engrossing family drama, elevated by truly rich characters.

THE LIGHTHOUSE

After 10 years away, a 26-year-old woman returns home to confront her past and rediscover her family in Kozak’s (Root Causes, 2013) novel. 

While in a coffee shop, Leah Larsen does an online search for her parents—as she’s done every so often since running away from home at 16—and discovers that her mother has died. Using what little money she has left, Leah travels to Taos, New Mexico, returning to the family ranch and the prestigious resort that her late grandfather designed, the Lighthouse. There, she finds her beloved aunt and uncle; her father, who greets her with expected “condemnation and contempt”; and Niels, the son whom she’d abandoned after her teenage pregnancy. Another figure, who’s unfamiliar to Leah, is Theo Wilde, her older cousin who tends to the stables. He’s a bit of a black sheep, as she is—a handsome artist who leaves the care of his own young son mostly to his uncle. He immediately feels connected to Leah, the cousin he barely knew, and encourages her to stay. When Theo’s brother Ben also feels compelled to come home to help get the resort’s struggling finances in order, the entire family is together for the first time in a decade. Leah finds herself on a path to uncover deep truths about her own past and her family’s complicated history, all while experiencing motherhood and a surprising new romance. Throughout this novel, Kozak pays particular attention to setting, surrounding her characters with gorgeous mountain scenery and a ranch that’s layered with memories of departed family members; Leah can feel her grandfather’s presence, for instance, “rippling” beneath the walls. The family’s extensive wealth and privilege lowers the stakes, at times—there’s an embezzlement subplot, but there’s little worry that they’ll run out of money—and the book’s unexpected romantic connection may raise eyebrows. But Kozak has crafted warm, inviting, and thoughtful characters here; there’s family bickering, of course, but they mostly speak to one another with fierce intelligence and admirable honesty. Even in dark moments, it’s a pleasure to spend time with them.  

A peculiar but engrossing family drama, elevated by truly rich characters.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-228-81055-1

Page Count: 355

Publisher: Tellwell Talent

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2019

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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