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TWISTER

The steady pacing of Walsh’s novel occasionally works against it, but the quiet revelations that emerge lend it a surprising...

A young man’s wartime death increases pre-existing tensions in a Midwestern community even as nightmarish weather approaches.

The town at the heart of Walsh’s first novel is one with plenty of history, and the book allows lots of time for the connections between its inhabitants to reveal themselves. In the first third of the novel, prosaic passages describing a gathering storm are intercut with portraits of the residents—particularly Rose, the grieving mother of Lance, a soldier killed overseas. Slowly, tensions emerge: Rose’s strained relationship with her stepsister Stella, for one, as well as an ongoing dispute over property. Juxtaposed with these is the figure of the Old Man, whose musings on life after having been struck by lightning add to the novel’s themes of festering grievances and unresolved guilt. From there, Walsh reveals the past events that led these characters to this point. The reader gets a better sense of Lance as his fate looms larger, and other characters become more fully developed: the Old Man, before his near-fatal accident, shows a less sympathetic side; Ward, Stella’s husband, reveals a more complex personality. And throughout, there’s a sense of economic foreboding: even without the catastrophic weather implied by the title, ominous things are on the horizon for many of the characters. The pace of the novel’s first part can feel overly deliberate, and Walsh’s lack of specificity in terms of allusions to recent history and political debates is a stylistic device that doesn’t entirely click. But when the novel hits its stride, it moves along very well.

The steady pacing of Walsh’s novel occasionally works against it, but the quiet revelations that emerge lend it a surprising power.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62557-937-9

Page Count: -

Publisher: Black Lawrence Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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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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