Giffin’s moving storyline offers great pacing, believable, disparate characters and a plot that could easily careen into...

WHERE WE BELONG

Kirby Rose turns 18, hops on a Greyhound bus from St. Louis to Manhattan and with no warning, knocks on the Fifth Avenue apartment door of her birth mother, Marian Caldwell—a move that will send them both on a journey of rediscovery, questioning everything they thought they knew about love, family, secrets and second chances.

Kirby is a classic underachiever in a family who values things she scorns and is mystified by the things she loves. Adopted when she was days old to a couple who’d concluded they’d never have kids, she’s grown up on the story, as much a part of the family history as the surprise of her sister’s “real” birth 11 months later. It’s only when she gets to high school that she feels disconnected to her adoptive family, and by the time she’s a senior, there’s a frustration on all sides that Kirby has failed in some way. Not clear on her own motivations, Kirby sets out to find her birth mother, landing unannounced on Marian’s Manhattan penthouse doorstep. Connecting with her daughter knocks Marian off her content, polished life path—and forces her to question the choices she’s made, the secrets she’s kept, the people she loves and the ones she’s left behind. Ultimately, Kirby and Marian will set off together to find the one person they both need to put all the pieces together, offering Kirby the confidence to embrace who she really is and Marian the opportunity to right some long-standing transgressions. Along the way, both women will revisit questions of family, identity, secrets and love—and what it truly means to belong. Giffin delivers an emotionally poignant and reflective look at teen pregnancy through a rearview mirror and how 18 years later, one woman’s hindsight is sometimes too easy, and sometimes too hard, on her adolescent self. And yet, on a certain level, as all parties come to understand, it doesn’t exactly matter. What really matters is how one chooses to live today—to express love, to live authentically and to embrace life itself, even when it lands on your doorstep in unexpected ways when you’re least prepared for it. 

Giffin’s moving storyline offers great pacing, believable, disparate characters and a plot that could easily careen into maudlin territory, unlikable stereotypes or over-the-top emotionalism but never does: a sweet, even-keeled winner.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-55419-4

Page Count: 383

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2012

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

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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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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