An often entertaining and suspenseful read.


In Erickson’s debut novel, a woman’s dark past threatens to surface and cause trouble in her current, privileged life.

Following her college graduation in 1992, Elle moves to Tokyo to teach English. She immediately meets Mitch, another American, and the two become close, bonding over their shared love of 1980s rock music. After being fired from teaching, Elle takes a job as a hostess and meets Tak, an alluring, wealthy Japanese man. After they start dating, Tak becomes abusive; Elle soon finds herself involved in his illegal drug business and threatened by his seedy colleagues. She also tries to be a supportive friend to Mitch, who’s dealing with his own struggles. In 2017, Elle is a wealthy, suburban wife and a mother to two teenagers: socially conscious, outspoken Brynnie and sporty, somewhat clueless Four. However, she harbors many anxieties—about her body and her marriage to tech company CEO Win Martin, for example—and is disillusioned with the superficial politics and helicopter parenting at Country Day, her kids’ elite school. Brynnie’s question to her (“Are you happy, Mom? Are you living your dream?”) often echoes in her mind. When Win suggests that they all accompany him on a Tokyo business trip, Elle is forced to confront her former life. She goes on to face dangerous figures from her past and painful, disturbing truths. The story alternates between the 1990s and the present. Throughout, Erickson reveals details about Elle’s upbringing, including her relationship with her neglectful mother and the impact that her baby brother’s death has had on her life. As a result, Elle comes across as a complex, multifaceted protagonist. The author deftly balances the plot’s heavier elements, including drug use and physical abuse, with borderline satirical situations, such as the absurdly inappropriate behavior of Country Day parents. Since childhood, Elle has sought direction from songs, relying on their lyrics to dictate how events in her life will play out, so the author frequently includes music references in the text. Perhaps due to the comprehensive back story, the plot’s resolution feels abrupt, and it would have been interesting to see the residual effects of some events.

An often entertaining and suspenseful read.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9989959-0-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Mile High Publishing House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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

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