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FOUNTAIN OF TEARS

A heart-rending tale both brutal and beautiful.

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A war veteran returns home wracked with guilt. 

Jacob Miranda was a sergeant in the Army and served two tours in Iraq before an improvised explosive device killed five of his men. Upon his return to Tucson, he struggles with civilian life. Tormented by nightmares, panic attacks, and migraines, he’s also lost in a dead-end job as a security guard. Unlike his mother, Jacob finds no solace in religion. His guilt becomes a psychic weight that grows even heavier when another soldier once under his command overdoses on drugs after he’s discharged. Jacob’s grief is movingly expressed by debut author Mabante: “But most of all, I wished that I could forget the faces—the ones that haunted my dreams nearly every night as they screamed out in soundless torment. They were a constant reminder that I’d let them all down—a silent indictment of my failure to protect my men.” Jacob drinks to assuage his troubles and contemplates re-enlisting or, in even darker moments, taking his own life. His family, especially his older sister, Monica, tries to rescue him from his despair, but he’s all but hopeless until his best friend from childhood, the girl he’s always been in love with, Maddie, lends her undying support. This is a familiar tale—so familiar it now constitutes a literary genre—but Mabante also adds a kind of novel within a novel: the story of Jacob and Maddie’s friendship beginning in childhood. Also, Jacob wrestles with the disclosure of a dark family secret, kept from him the whole of his life, a key to his character vividly drawn by Mabante. The writing tends toward stylistic realism, but it’s also by turns poetically charged, even poignant. Furthermore, Mabante’s depiction of the psychological challenges (the sting and ache of trauma, the jarring reabsorption into quotidian life) that combat veterans face unfolds in raw, honest terms. 

A heart-rending tale both brutal and beautiful. 

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68433-135-2

Page Count: 290

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2018

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A LITTLE LIFE

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

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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

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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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