Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

THE LAST COMMISSION

A clever, humane and deeply satisfying novel.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

In Halaban’s (The Perfect Wish, 2013) latest novel, an emotionally traumatized, middle-aged man gets the chance to confront his past and transform its meaning.

In 1977, Maury Green is a 50-year-old real estate salesman living in New Haven, Connecticut. For almost 30 years, he’s seemed old and defeated—ever since he returned home after a short stint in the Israeli army, following his service in World War II, during which he moved bodies in Dachau. Even more soul-killing was his treatment by Israeli soldiers from a rival political faction, who subjected him to a mock execution by firing squad, leaving him humiliated and broken-spirited. At his job, Maury used to be a top salesman, but lately he’s had a long string of lean months; the only respect he ever seems to get is when he writes checks for Jewish fund-raising efforts. At one such event, he recognizes Israeli Gen. Yaacov B. Ronen, the possible future prime minister of Israel and the cruel leader of his long-ago humiliation—but Ronen doesn’t recognize him. When Maury is asked to be a go-between for the general, who has some priceless, ancient scrolls to sell, he conceives a daring plan of revenge and redemption. Halaban makes palpable the little routines and rhythms of Maury’s life, which later become helpful in working out his plans. He effectively establishes Maury as both a nebbish and a mensch; for example, Maury resents his more successful co-workers but also buys a daily breakfast for a homeless woman he calls Queen Esther. As the book goes on, Maury’s deep sensitivity becomes more apparent. The scrolls, for example, become a litmus test. The general cynically exploits them: “ ‘Remember the camps, Maury. Remember the camps,’ he whispered….Maury wasn’t buying.” Later, Maury gains courage and hope from two academics’ passionate, awed response to them: “We have to save the scrolls, Maury. We have to save them,” says one. Throughout, Halaban makes Maury’s transformation believable and highly engaging.

A clever, humane and deeply satisfying novel.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1629010373

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Inkwater Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

Categories:

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 24


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • National Book Award Finalist

A LITTLE LIFE

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

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 24


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • 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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Categories:

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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

Categories:
Close Quickview