A methodical, convincing story of political upheaval.

NEVER AGAIN

America’s refusal to take in thousands of Israeli refugees incites national tumult in Schwartz’s (On a Barge in France, 2016) thriller.

After an atomic bomb devastates Tel Aviv, two ships filled with Israeli refugees arrive at Boston Harbor. But the U.S. bars their entrance, partly due to the more recent bombing in Damascus, which most presume was Israel’s retaliation to Tel Aviv. Tensions escalate when rocket-propelled grenades—from both ships—hit Coast Guard vessels and result in casualties. When refugees subsequently flee, U.S. President Lawrence Quaid ultimately declares them enemy combatants to be caught and held in a detention camp. American Jews, such as lawyer Ben Shapiro, are shocked by what has all the markings of another Holocaust. In apparent response, allegedly Jewish suicide bombers kill numerous citizens. But Shapiro eventually crosses paths with a group that may be even more dangerous. Debra Reuben, the last surviving member of the Israeli Prime Minister’s cabinet, and Chaim Levi of the Israeli Defense Forces concoct a plan that could entail detonating a nuclear device on American soil. Much of Schwartz’s story is topical. For example, the U.S. ostracizes immigrants by issuing Americards, identification for proving citizenship and ensuring that employers don’t hire those without one. The author skillfully captures the country’s political turmoil. As citizens debate accepting refugees, Boston’s Haitian community opposes it since it would indicate favoritism to “white illegals.” The novel doesn’t take an overt stand on immigration. Quaid, for one, doesn’t display signs of villainy (despite some people’s equating him to Hitler) in that his decisions aren’t based on malice. While the novel is predominantly stark and serious, it’s occasionally wry, like when a character notes that it’s not hard to quickly source materials for an explosive device: “Not in modern America. Not with next-day delivery from Amazon.”

A methodical, convincing story of political upheaval.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63393-733-8

Page Count: 458

Publisher: Koehler Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2018

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

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.

FRIENDS FOREVER

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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