A richly satisfying slice of Americana.

Winner Take None

An earnest teen learns valuable life lessons in Comer’s vividly rendered debut set in the frontier country of 19th-century Montana.

Life has dealt 14-year-old Deuteronomy Jesudas Seebea a raw hand. He’s an orphan trying to make his way in the world without guidance. Worse, Deuter knows too much about shady goings-on in Clevis Hook, Montana, and is forced to leave town abruptly. He eventually makes his way to a remote outpost, a small settlement called Railstop, where the slow westward crawl of a railroad line has come to an abrupt halt. The ragtag Band of Brigands has set up shop right in the path of the only logical route for the railroad’s expansion—and they won’t go down without a fight. Railstop’s many intriguing characters include Angelique de la Bataille, proprietress of the Glory Hole Saloon; Lyman Connors, the village smithy; and the O’Doody sisters, Parsimonie and Chastity, whose rock-solid biscuits can take out unsuspecting passersby. Much of the action is centered on the residents’ efforts to win a just settlement for the railroad expansion. Trying to make his voice heard in this cacophony is young Deuter; exploited for his naiveté, he still uses worldly skills to position himself on the right side of history. The rugged, Wild West nature of Montana is one of the novel’s many highlights, as much a living, breathing character as the humans. Evocative descriptions—“Boy’s mind is like cowboy coffee, made without a filter”—and crisp, salty dialogue liven up the proceedings, often with a dash of humor. The narrative still sags toward the middle, as talks between the railroad and town lose steam and the novelty of the setting and characters begins to wear a little thin. Despite the dip, what emerges in the end is an entertaining peek at an important moment in American history, when the glamour of gold was still glittering bright and the West was being won one small outpost at a time.

A richly satisfying slice of Americana.

Pub Date: April 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-941295-52-6

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Barking Rain Press

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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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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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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