Certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but an unfamiliar treat for those who like their comedy laced with a touch of satire.


A fitfully funny and adventurous experiment from the author of Wicked (1995).

This strangely compelling religious farce originated much differently than the fantasy novels that characterize the work of Boston-based novelist Maguire (A Lion Among Men, 2008, etc.). This peculiar novel was originally born as a limited-edition paperback offered by Concord Free Press, the publisher that gives books away for free. Now Harper has given a second lease on life to this familial dramedy about a rebellious daughter, her devoutly religious mother and the bump on the head that turns their small town into a bit of a circus. Maguire’s main prism on small-town life in Thebes, N.Y., is Tabitha Scales, a teenaged girl with a reputation as the town slut. In fact, she appears so regularly in the town jail that the police have let her decorate her own cell. “Thebes was so lame it might as well be amputated,” she muses. Her mother is the long-suffering Leontina Scales, “a middle-aged pillar of the Radical Radiant Pentecostals (Also Republican, with some standards).” But things take a turn when a statue of Our Lady with a Chip on Her Shoulder falls over, bashing Leontina upside the skull and causing her to erupt in foul-mouthed tongues, espousing things like “Am of God, who takes away the sins of the world. So you: shut up.” It seems that everyone in town is concerned with God’s plans. Meanwhile, young, gay choir director Jeremy Carr is dealing with his own struggles, which include mourning a broken love affair with Willem Handelaers. Meanwhile, the Radical Radiants threaten war with the local Catholic Church.

Certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but an unfamiliar treat for those who like their comedy laced with a touch of satire.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-199779-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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