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THE ONLY BOY FOR ME

Not very deep but undeniably entertaining.

First-time novelist McNeil makes single motherhood, as sometimes suffered but mostly enjoyed by a freelance ad-producer in a quaint village near London, look awfully appealing.

The center of Annie's life is her six-year-old son Charlie, the happy result of an unhappy affair. Charlie’s father not only went back to his wife but also moved abroad, so he’s conveniently out of the picture. Annie’s job allows her to work at home much of the time. When she’s away on a commercial shoot, she depends on an enviable network of supportive friends and family. Annie recounts her daily life with the beloved but demanding Charlie—his tantrums, his food requirements, his way of sneaking into her bed at night—in a self-revealing approach reminiscent of Anne Lamott heroines. She engages us in her routines: taking Charlie to and from school, drinking (coffee or gin) with her women friends, working on comically nightmarish commercial shoots. Soon, not unexpectedly, a man enters the picture. Mac, a divorced ad executive with two kids and lots of money, is immediately as crazy about Annie as she is about him. He is handsome and romantic. He and Charlie like each other; even better, his son and Charlie quickly become best buddies. His only flaws are his less-than-total devotion to his children and his too-frequent need to be the center of attention (in other words, he’s a man). The story’s crisis occurs when Charlie comes down with meningitis. Parents, friends, and Mac rally round the distraught Annie while Charlie receives excellent medical care. He makes a speedy recovery, but not before Annie has been reminded just how precious he is to her. Weeks later, Mac takes a job in New York and asks her to marry and move there with him. Like a more mature Bridget Jones, she turns him down, leaving room for a sequel down the road.

Not very deep but undeniably entertaining.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2002

ISBN: 1-58234-223-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

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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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