NATURAL LIGHT

An often touching odyssey of a New York City woman. Her story of love and loss is recalled in flashbacks-from the fiery camaraderie of Thirties' radical politics, and a lifetime love, through the succeeding decades, with their ``new code words, new intransigencies,'' to the present, when she weeps before Washington's Vietnam Memorial. Molly Levin, nÇe Mary Barrett from old-family Massachusetts, daughter of a Dr. Spock-like pediatrician and a Socialist mother who marched for Debs, met dramatically handsome Joe Levin at a Manhattan fund-raiser for Spanish Loyalists, an exuberant gathering of young Communists and idealistic others. But after the watershed shock of the Nazi-Soviet pack and the advent of WW II, Joe, now Molly's husband and father of baby Emily, began his polar turn to the conservative rights. It was during WW II, with Joe in the Air Force, that Molly started her career in photojournalism, which won her a Pulitzer, and after the war the Levins left hard-scrabble living. Wars and the McCarthy era brush and shove by, and then the Levins' children are lost forever- Tommy to death in Vietnam; Emily to a rigid religious orthodoxy in Israel. Now, in musings beside the name of her son on the Vietnam Memorial-Molly has taken a respite from a pro-choice march-Molly remembers lives and their causes and reflects on the plight of talented women of another generation past ``caught in an evolving time,'' and how she and Joe stayed together-simply because ``they cared about each other deeply.'' And in the river of change one can only live in the present moment. A first novel by the author of the nonfiction Love You Abigail...Always Did (1978)-and also an achingly personal tribute to lost times and good people.

Pub Date: April 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-944072-14-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1991

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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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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