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OTHER WATERS

Gage beautifully describes the waters that evoke the transformative moments of Maya’s journey. Yet Parvati, the...

Can goddesses walk among us? Can an entire family really be cursed? Can a modern woman find her inner goddess?

In her debut novel (following her 2005 memoir North of Ithaka), Gage tells the tale of Maya Das. She has it all: a promising career in psychiatry, a family chock-full of successful physicians, a supportive best friend and a loving boyfriend. So why can't she manage to introduce her white boyfriend, Scott, to her Indian family? With her best friend, Heidi, and her residency-required therapist urging her to commit to her relationship and introduce him to the family, Maya is poised to assert her own independence. Yet the death of Dadiji, Maya's grandmother, far away in India, sets in motion not only some soul-searching but also a possible family curse. As a child visiting India, Maya had witnessed a father beating his daughter, dressed as a goddess and forced to beg on the streets. Maya begged her grandmother to intervene with the surprising result that the young girl was brought into Dadiji's home. Raised as a sort of servant slash inferior daughter, Parvati makes Maya and her older sister, Priya, uncomfortable. Indeed, Maya continues to wonder well into adulthood whether Parvati might actually be a goddess or have supernatural powers. Of course these wonderings conflict with her modern medical training, not to mention her family's practical approach to life. So when Maya's father discreetly calls to tell her Parvati has cursed the family, Maya is both dismissive and afraid. After her father's heart attack, her mother's hemorrhage, her sister's miscarriage, her brother's marital strife and her own personal and professional difficulties, however, Maya begins to take the curse much more seriously. A quest to India is in order. The journey offers Maya the chance not only to lift the family curse but also to assess her life, particularly her relationship with Scott and her own attitude towards her ethnicity.

Gage beautifully describes the waters that evoke the transformative moments of Maya’s journey. Yet Parvati, the curse-caster, remains mysteriously underdeveloped. A lovely read, but a missed opportunity to delve deeply into the superstitions that still lurk in our modern minds.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-65851-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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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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