IN DAYS OF AWE

Goodman's third novel (The First I Saw Jenny Hall, High on the Energy Bridge)—a tale more programmatic than lively—concerns a baseball player, banned from the bigs for gambling, who gives up womanizing, makes peace with his father, and eventually gets his life together. ``Jewish Joe Singer'' is down on his luck: he's lost his wife and two kids, fans hate him, and he spends most of his time bikini- hunting on southern California beaches. The source of his troubles, it turns out, is his father, Jack, a transplanted Russian whose wife goes batty and who leads Joe astray. As for Joe's ex-wife, ``Joe was the first Jew she'd ever met, and she married him.'' Mainly, though, Joe is between the sheets with a string of beauties—until Emile, a psychopathic husband, blows his wife away on Joe's doorstep (``You think you can ball my wife, then slip back into your Gucci suits, your after-the-game interviews?''). Meanwhile, Joe ``progressed from making love to other men's wives to making love to one man's wife while falling in love with another man's girlfriend.'' Fannie, his true love and the current lover of Reverend Des, gets him involved in gun-control. And the baseball commissioner tells Joe that he'll be reinstated if he gives up politics and if he turns over the man who led him astray, so Joe visits his father. By book's end, the psychopath has killed Des and shot Joe, but Joe recovers in time for his father's wedding (after learning a few things about trust and honor and all that). As for Fannie, well, she and Joe might or might not make it—but the chances are good as Joe goes to the ballpark to ask his teammates to forgive him. A too-contrived comeback story, despite a few moving father- son confrontations.

Pub Date: May 15, 1991

ISBN: 0-394-58912-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1991

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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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Soft-focus story moves right along with few surprises. This time around, Hannah avoids the soap-opera complications of her...

DISTANT SHORES

Another middle-aged mom in a muddle.

After years of false starts and big hopes, Elizabeth’s ruggedly handsome husband Jack, a former football star, just landed a spot as a sportscaster on national news. He still loves her, even though much younger women are giving him come-hither looks. Heck, he doesn’t want to betray the love of his life after she helped him kick drugs and stuck by him even when he was a struggling has-been. And won’t it seem hypocritical if he fools around with his sexy assistant while he does in-depth reporting on a rape case involving a famous basketball center? Well, he fools around anyway. Elizabeth, nicknamed Birdie, knows nothing of this, but she withdraws from Jack when her hard-drinking, salt-of-the-earth father has a stroke and dies. Now no one will call her “sugar beet” ever again. Time to return home to Tennessee and contend with Anita, the sort-of-evil stepmother so trashy she wears pink puffy slippers all day long. Naturally, it turns out that Anita actually has a heart of gold and knows a few things about Birdie’s dead mother that were hushed up for years. Mom was an artist, just like Birdie, and an old scandal comes to light as Anita unrolls a vibrant canvas that portrays her secret lover. Perhaps, Birdie muses, her mother died of heartbreak, never having followed her true love or developed her talent. Has she, too, compromised everything she holds dear? Hoping to find out, Birdie joins a support group that promises to reconnect confused women with their passion. She and Jack separate, prompting a how-dare-you fit from their grown daughters. Will Birdie fly her empty nest? Will she go back to college for a degree in art? Will her brooding watercolors ever sell?

Soft-focus story moves right along with few surprises. This time around, Hannah avoids the soap-opera complications of her previous tales (Summer Island, 2001, etc.).

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-345-45071-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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