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YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE

A manically funny farce both delightfully absurd and strangely plausible.

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A psychiatric patient who believes he’s a British spy escapes from a mental institution and finds himself embroiled in real intrigue in this debut comedy. 

James Flynn grew up in California and was orphaned when he was 10 years old, shuffled from one foster home to another. But as an adult, he’s convinced he works for the British Secret Service and that his home, the City of Roses Psychiatric Institute, is his agency’s headquarters. He speaks in a British accent, walks the halls in swanky suits, and habitually seduces fawning female nurses. When the institute is taken over by a new administration, headed by the insufferable Dr. Grossfarber, James escapes, confident that the Secret Service has been compromised by adversaries. He finds Sancho, a 22-year-old orderly at City of Roses, and drags him into the search for Dulcie Delgadillo, a beautiful, young drug addict released from the institute, who James believes has been kidnapped. Once at her apartment, he finds a loaded revolver and a duffel bag crammed with cash, which belong to Dulcie’s abusive boyfriend, Mike Croker, a motorcycle gang member involved in drug dealing. James uses the money to outfit himself in an Armani suit, buys an Aston Martin, and is pursued both by drug dealers intent on retrieving their stolen cash and the police looking to return him to the institute. James then stumbles on a major crime boss’s plot to kidnap the world’s 10 richest people in an attempt to profit from the global stock market collapse that he believes will ensue. Orkin pays comedic homage to Cervantes’ Don Quixote, the obvious fictional inspiration for James’ flights of deluded fantasy. But unlike that work’s treatment of Quixote’s hallucinations, it remains tantalizingly unclear if James is sane or not—he’s uncannily talented at being an action hero for someone theatrically posing as one. This is really a novella, at under 160 pages, and the plot moves at breakneck speed. The author’s prose is so buoyant that it borders on gleeful, with James dispensing words of wisdom to Sancho (“A man is like a teabag….You never know how strong he is until you dip him in hot water”). Orkin skillfully manages to create a story that is genuinely amusing, tenderly moving, and decidedly thoughtful. 

A manically funny farce both delightfully absurd and strangely plausible.

Pub Date: March 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77223-360-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Imajin Books

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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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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THE RUMOR

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Hilderbrand’s latest cautionary tale exposes the toxic—and hilarious—impact of gossip on even the most sophisticated of islands.

Eddie and Grace Pancik are known for their beautiful Nantucket home and grounds, financed with the profits from Eddie’s thriving real estate company (thriving before the crash of 2008, that is). Grace raises pedigreed hens and, with the help of hunky landscape architect Benton Coe, has achieved a lush paradise of fowl-friendly foliage. The Panciks’ teenage girls, Allegra and Hope, suffer invidious comparisons of their looks and sex appeal, although they're identical twins. The Panciks’ friends the Llewellyns (Madeline, a blocked novelist, and her airline-pilot husband, Trevor) invested $50,000, the lion’s share of Madeline’s last advance, in Eddie’s latest development. But Madeline, hard-pressed to come up with catalog copy, much less a new novel, is living in increasingly straightened circumstances, at least by Nantucket standards: she can only afford $2,000 per month on the apartment she rents in desperate hope that “a room of her own” will prime the creative pump. Construction on Eddie’s spec houses has stalled, thanks to the aforementioned crash. Grace, who has been nursing a crush on Benton for some time, gives in and a torrid affair ensues, which she ill-advisedly confides to Madeline after too many glasses of Screaming Eagle. With her agent and publisher dropping dire hints about clawing back her advance and Eddie “temporarily” unable to return the 50K, what’s a writer to do but to appropriate Grace’s adultery as fictional fodder? When Eddie is seen entering her apartment (to ask why she rented from a rival realtor), rumors spread about him and Madeline, and after the rival realtor sneaks a look at Madeline’s rough draft (which New York is hotly anticipating as “the Playboy Channel meets HGTV”), the island threatens to implode with prurient snark. No one is spared, not even Hilderbrand herself, “that other Nantucket novelist,” nor this magazine, “the notoriously cranky Kirkus.”

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-33452-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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