Frequently moving even as it charts the limitations of memory.

COMES A TIME

An aging man revisits his most meaningful relationships as he grapples with dementia.

Ramey's novel begins with a few lines of almost-illegible handwriting followed by a pair of sentences that set out the images that will recur throughout the book: “The handwriting didn’t look like his. Neither did the hand.” Protagonist Raymond sits in solitude, looking back over his life, from going off to fight in World War II to his relationships with the people closest to him. Complicating matters is Raymond’s mind, which is slipping into dementia. Ramey’s evocation of Raymond’s loss of language and fragmented mental state makes for some of the book’s most unsettling segments: “Though he couldn’t always call the numbers for the hour anymore or even the name for the—the moon...that is, the mano—the...first part of the day.” Later, Ramey illustrates his protagonist's distress more straightforwardly: “the sudden wonder that all his memories were just half-seen things and that words had become accidents he suffered.” Raymond’s is a life beset with heartache; in passing, Ramey reveals that his mother died in childbirth. His father, Vic, and son, David, both loom large in the proceedings, but most of his thoughts are occupied with his relationships with two women, Clara and Ellen—and his regrets over how he treated them both. “Raymond had fooled himself. Or lied, really. Told himself it was a thing a good man could do—hold two women separate like stones without hurting anybody.” The blend of fractured memories and long-held regrets doesn’t always come together neatly, but the book’s cyclical structure makes for an affecting conclusion.

Frequently moving even as it charts the limitations of memory.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-944388-72-0

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Fomite

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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