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ON TURPENTINE LANE

Warm, clever, a little silly, a lot of fun.

A professional thank-you-note writer buys a house with a past and gets more than she bargained for.

Faith Frankel is feeling like a bit of a loser. She has a futureless job writing letters to alumni in the development department of her old private school. Her fiance, who gave her a piece of red thread in lieu of an engagement ring, is on a cross-country walk to benefit his own personal growth and is documenting the trip on Facebook with selfies that include smiling ex-girlfriends in locations across the country. Her insurance-agent father has become a painter in his retirement and left her mother for the woman who convinced him to start a bat-mitzvah-gift forgery business. “She asked if he could make a copy of Chagall, but perhaps more lavender than blue—purple was their daughter’s favorite color—and work her daughter’s name into it, and give the angel her face, with her bangs but without her braces.” This, it turns out, is a business model whose time has come. When Faith finds, in the attic of her new little house, a photo album containing images of what may be dead twin babies, she's so creeped out that she offers her empty second bedroom to her handsome, kind, newly single, and homeless officemate. Nick Franconi is another idea whose time has come. Of course things will get worse before they get better, with the local police department ripping up her basement in search of murder evidence and a scandal at the office in which Faith is accused of funneling a huge alumni donation to her fiance. Lipman (The View from Penthouse B, 2013, etc.) is known for her dialogue, so snappy, funny, and real that it cancels out any dubiousness about the kooky mystery plot.

Warm, clever, a little silly, a lot of fun.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-80824-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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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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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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