The plot may be slight, but the author packs in wit, social commentary, and an emotional depth that will lift the reader's...

THE INVISIBILITY CLOAK

This slim comic novel, the first by acclaimed Chinese author Ge Fei to be translated into English, follows the travails of a likable loser trying to stay afloat—financially and emotionally—in contemporary Beijing.

Cui builds tube amplifiers for a living. In the mid-1990s, during a boom in serious music interest in Beijing, Cui did well enough to buy a two-bedroom apartment and marry his girlfriend, Yufen. Four years later Beijing’s interest in serious music has died out and Cui is struggling financially. Worse, his mother’s warning that Yufen was “a little too easy-come-easy-go” has proven prophetic: recently, around the time of his mother’s death, Yufen “sweetly” asked for a divorce because she’d become involved with a man from her office. Cui let her have the apartment while he kept a valuable set of Autograph speakers. He now lives in his older sister's apartment, but she and her husband, who moved into his mother’s house, want him out ASAP. Ge Fei’s depiction of Beijing life is cynical—from the pompous professor who insists Cui install only the best sound system but knows nothing about music; to Cui’s manipulative sister; to his friend Jiang Songping, a glad-handing factory owner who patronizingly gives Cui Tommy Hilfiger shirts and helps him “fish” for clients among his wealthy acquaintances in order to show off his “highbrow tastes”; to the general graft and corruption apparent in the author’s descriptions of recently built apartment complexes. And it would be easy for a cynic to consider Cui a sucker for helping Yufen’s new husband out of a jam or trusting a mobster’s promise to send his payment after Cui installs his most valuable sound system. But page by page, Cui lives by his own moral compass until readers find themselves rooting for this philosophical Everyman to overcome every setback Ge Fei throws his way.

The plot may be slight, but the author packs in wit, social commentary, and an emotional depth that will lift the reader's spirits like few recent books.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68137-020-0

Page Count: 120

Publisher: New York Review Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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