A sweeping melodrama of the frontier.

The Purest Gold

A widowed minister, fleeing the scandal of a forbidden affair, relocates from Massachusetts to Colorado with his teenage daughters in this historical novel set in the 1860s.

In their elegant Boston home, 15-year-old identical twins Lily and Rose Wright eavesdrop on an astounding conversation and learn that their widowed father, the Rev. Daniel Wright, has impregnated Rachel Decker, a congregation member who’s married to a physically abusive man. To keep the matter contained, church elders send Daniel to set up a new church in the frontier town of Gold Creek, Colorado. Surprisingly, Lily and Rose, whom Daniel can’t even tell apart, want to go with him rather than stay with their affluent maternal grandmother. The three Wrights thus set off on a several-week-long pioneering journey, during which they forge new friendships and encounter buffalo and Native Americans. The sisters often alarm their uptight father by riding astride horses or joyfully dancing, but at one point, they also save his life. After the Wrights arrive in Gold Creek, they find themselves particularly drawn to the local Fairdale family, even though the latter’s patriarch espouses transcendental instead of traditional religious views. By novel’s end, Daniel reunites with Rachel (who fled to a relative’s house after her husband was admitted to a hospital for insanity) and his son and learns to embrace a wider perspective; Lily and Rose, meanwhile, adjust their close personal bond as they both find adult loves. Starsong (Never Again, 2015, etc.) delivers an intense historical novel that effectively conveys the Wrights’ full flowering, along with some Freudian undertones. Daniel, in particular, is a striking study of repressed desire; Starsong even includes a scene in which he shamefully ogles his naked daughters. Although the pathos of Daniel’s story, which includes moments of wailing and direct communication with God, occasionally threatens to engulf the novel, the author also manages to skillfully relate a number of other story arcs in addition to his, including the sisters’ individual awakenings and a sweet subplot involving a gentle carpenter and a young prostitute.

A sweeping melodrama of the frontier.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9975450-4-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Dancing Aspen Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2016

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

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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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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