A notable debut that infuses an engrossing legal procedural with deep empathy.

THE TENANT LAWYER

A young attorney struggles to humanize the law—and himself—in this quietly absorbing legal tale.

Fired from his high-powered Boston law firm for an unseemly attack of conscience, 32-year-old Mark Langley has descended to the lowest rung of the lawyering trade as a legal services attorney doing eviction cases in his blue-collar hometown of Worcester, Mass. In the assembly-line proceedings of Housing Court, there’s little he can do for his impoverished clients—many of them tenants in the town’s bleak housing projects—except postpone the day they’ll be evicted. Then a case comes along with a mixture of technicalities and pathos that grabs his attention: a single mom faces eviction from public housing because her son was arrested on drug charges; a guilty verdict would cause her other son to lose his college scholarship. While he pursues a long-shot trial in the case, Mark also squares off against the haughty mandarins in his old firm to challenge the corrupt diversion of anti-poverty funds to a well-connected developer. In his first novel, Dinnocenzo, himself an attorney with legal-services experience, ventures into John Grisham territory—a callow, idealistic lawyer battles the establishment—but with less histrionics and more social insight. Poverty, chaos and infuriating regulations precipitate one crisis after another in the lives of his underclass strivers. The seemingly low-stakes Housing Court becomes an arena of tense legal strategizing and real drama, where verdicts destroy families. Writing in a limpid, nuanced prose, Dinnocenzo crafts sharp but subtle portraits of his characters and their agonizing dilemmas. Mark in particular is a flawed but appealing hero plagued by self-doubt and courtroom stage fright. He’s torn between glittering yuppie Boston and dilapidated Worcester as he obsessively sharpens his arguments in pursuit of justice for people who can’t afford it otherwise.

A notable debut that infuses an engrossing legal procedural with deep empathy.

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 2011

ISBN: 978-1462004775

Page Count: 264

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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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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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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