An often compelling novel set in the colorful, dangerous world of oil field diving.



Butcher’s debut novel tells the story of a commercial diver struggling with difficult co-workers.

You would think a man by the name of Jonah would never go to sea. Even if he had no superstition regarding his name, surely others around him would. Nevertheless, Jonah becomes an apprentice oil field diver—or “Tender,” as they’re known—doing maintenance work on the labyrinth of pipelines that crisscross the floor of the Gulf of Mexico. Jonah gains a reputation for toughness and survival—valued qualities in his line of work—and manages to rise above his unfortunate name. Then one of the divers on his team—a man named Seed, who was recently released from the state penitentiary—takes his dispute with a crane operator too far; when the crew is sent to recover the body of a dead rigger, Seed hangs the corpse from the crane. This trespass against decency destroys the reputation of Jonah’s crew and makes them vulnerable to violent reprisals from other Louisiana riggers. “Do you know how easy it is ta kill a man offshore and make it look like an accident?” threatens one rigger who breaks into Jonah’s apartment. “I want you ta think a me when the crane operator crushes you under a load.” Jonah finds himself having to take more and more difficult jobs, surrounded by progressively more unfriendly crewmates. Meanwhile, his refusal to defend Seed’s actions makes the ex-con a particularly pernicious enemy. On top of it all, Jonah must face other timeless dangers of the sea: cold water, rough weather, and myriad creatures—including, of course, a whale. Butcher’s measured prose deftly captures the grit and violence of Jonah’s world, both on deck and beneath the waves: “The ocean’s molten color poured into his helmet. It shone through his lens onto his face. It flooded into his eyes, filled his face and mind with concentrated blue until that’s all there was to know.” The author also makes repeated references to Jonah’s other literary antecedent, the similarly biblically named Ishmael, although this book is far more approachable than Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, both in its narrative style and in its literary ambition. Jonah’s tale is essentially an adventure story, and the rigger vendettas, murderers, and snake-handlers that populate the pages of this book are more the stuff of pulp fiction than they are of reality. Even so, the world of offshore oil rigs is indeed a rugged one, and Butcher’s handling of it here will attract readers who might not have had any interest in the milieu before. There are a few moments when the narrative drifts lazily into cliché—“I don’t think it’s possible to really know what’s in a man’s heart,” muses an old hand named Porter in the novel’s frame narrative, “any more than it’s possible to know what’s hidden in the ocean”—but the story is entertaining enough for readers to forgive the author for such lapses.

An often compelling novel set in the colorful, dangerous world of oil field diving.

Pub Date: March 22, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-947942-18-9

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Liberty Island Media

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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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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