A novel at its most engaging when it shows the protagonist’s struggle to recover from trauma.


A Virginia woman contemplates revenge against her new boss—the very same man who raped her years ago—in Mikalsen’s (The House by the Cypress Trees, 2019, etc.) thriller.

Emma and Aidan Shephard are both worried about their jobs. The owner of Davis & Parsons, the pharmaceutical company where the couple works, is planning to sell. But the unexpected buyer is Avias Global, which is set to merge with D&P. The more startling news for Emma is that the Avias president is Richard Stolar. She quickly confirms he’s the man who beat and raped her at her college, Westview, more than two decades earlier. People at Westview, including the dean, dismissed Emma’s assault claims back then, and she’s never told Aidan about what happened to her. With revenge in mind, Emma ultimately concentrates on Parozex, an antipsychotic drug Richard wants fast-tracked to FDA approval despite potentially fatal side effects. Emma looks for dirt on the new boss and uncovers a surprising link to her former college roomie, Shannon, and Emma’s boyfriend at Westview, Jeff. Richard’s scheme to get Parozex onto the market is unquestionably unethical, but with employees scared of losing jobs and Aidan getting chummy with Richard, convincing others won’t be easy for Emma. Though Mikalsen’s tale has the hallmarks of a thriller, it’s most riveting as a drama. Emma’s story is at times heartbreaking; she often blames herself for Richard’s vicious assault and is psychologically incapable of using stairs, as the attack took place in a stairwell. But it’s gratifying to watch her persevere even as she stumbles, as when she enlists her teen daughter, Sophie, for her hacking skills to dredge up info on Richard. There’s suspense, particularly near the end, and a few memorable plot turns, while the author’s taut prose dramatizes the protagonist’s inner conflict. Her building anger, for example, results in fists so tightly clenched her fingers ache. Still, the book shines brightest with Emma’s triumphs, such as the support she receives from and provides for another rape survivor.

A novel at its most engaging when it shows the protagonist’s struggle to recover from trauma. 

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5092-2889-8

Page Count: 334

Publisher: Wild Rose Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2019

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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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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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