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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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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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