A KEEPER

A page-turner well suited for readers seeking a light domestic thriller.

A daughter discovers layers of secrets surrounding her parentage when she returns to Ireland to settle her mother’s estate.

University professor Elizabeth Keane flies to Ireland to clean out her mother Patricia’s house in Buncarragh and ready it for sale. She discovers a box of letters from Edward Foley, the father she never met and whom she was told had died when she was an infant, and realizes she has little idea who Patricia was outside her role as a mother. Nearly all grown children realize this truth at some point, and yet it hits Elizabeth at an especially timely moment, as she’s a single mother to her son, Zach, who is nearing adulthood, and she faces a life just as alone as she perceived her mother's to be. To complicate matters, her mother’s lawyer informs Elizabeth that she has inherited a second property, her father’s house, which prompts a new round of investigation. Interspersed with the chapters about Elizabeth’s questions, other chapters flash back to detail Patricia’s initial correspondence and later relationship with Edward. These sections become increasingly tense as Patricia visits his home and glimpses the sadness and dysfunction that grip him and his mother. In the present moment, Elizabeth’s life also becomes uncertain as she discovers Zach is lying about visiting his father and keeping secrets of his own. Irish television personality Norton (Holding, 2017, etc.) has crafted what turns out to be an ominous mystery for his second novel as two stories about motherhood unfurl simultaneously. At times, the characters seem to almost be running to keep up with the plot twists, which leaves little time for full development or more than surface-level insight into their motivations. Unlike Norton’s first novel, focus is on the plot as the site of intrigue, but affinity with the characters is the cost.

A page-turner well suited for readers seeking a light domestic thriller.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1776-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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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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