A disturbing, heart-rending account of a young man caught in the abyss between desire and realization.


A young man struggles with overwhelming impulses and thwarted desires in Vierling’s darkly affecting debut novel.

Arriving in town by bus, Raymond is approached by a man suffering with a kidney stone. Although Raymond doesn’t want to, he assists him and ends up staying at the home of his new friend, Earl, and his wife, Clarissa. The outspoken, principled Earl takes a paternal interest in Raymond, and Clarissa mothers him, calling him “hon.” Raymond finds work at Earl’s former place of employment, an animal rendering plant, even though Earl warns against it, saying “[t]hat place will ruin a man.” Daily, Raymond fights the urge to retch as he deals with the gruesome sights and horrific smells of animal parts being rendered into soap and oil; it’s tough going, but he sticks with it. Eventually, he becomes smitten with a drinking buddy’s cousin, Jenny, but because he lacks polish, he scarcely knows what to do—and his buddy has also sternly warned him to stay away from her. When he finally approaches her, he’s too overwhelmed by her presence to engage in conversation, and as with many things in Raymond’s life, the reality falls decidedly short of the dream. Throughout the novel, the author allows Raymond only a few moments of happiness, as the character’s sometimes-brutal nature (and lack of nurture) often prevents them from coming into being. As in the works of Cormac McCarthy, the dialogue is without quotes, and scene after scene rings true, as each character utters lines in his or her own unique cadence. Raymond is a troubled man, an atavistic throwback caught by his need to be a man but not knowing how to go about it. Without the grace of love, embittered Raymond might have become a true American psycho. Overall, Vierling’s narrative is a stirring reminder of the fathering that’s necessary to ensure a boy’s passage into manhood.

A disturbing, heart-rending account of a young man caught in the abyss between desire and realization.

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-1494487287

Page Count: 304

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11

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?

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

Did you like this book?