We are in the hands of a skilled storyteller, and every word matters. A captivating story, and one that cries for a sequel.

WALKING TO GATLINBURG

There are two good reasons to go to Gatlinburg. One is to visit Dolly Parton’s theme park. Mosher (On Kingdom Mountain, 2007, etc.) limns the other in this expertly written novel.

Longtime readers of Mosher will not be surprised to find that his latest opens on ground well trod in other novels: the mountain country of northern Vermont, and specifically Kingdom Mountain, his Yoknapatawpha County. Morgan Kinneson is an exceedingly bright 17-year-old who has spent his young life exploring every corner of the mountain, becoming so knowledgeable about the place that he and his older brother Pilgrim had brought the pioneering naturalist Louis Agassiz “to the mountaintop to examine the glacial erratics, boulders brought down from the Far North by the great ice sheet.” Things have changed now, for Pilgrim, who had been packed off to college, has joined the Union Army and has now gone missing at the Battle of Gettysburg. Helping a runaway slave make his way north to Canada, Morgan is attacked by mysterious renegades—or are they rebel spies?—who want something of the fugitive’s. That something (readers of On Kingdom Mountain might just have a clue as to what it is), and perhaps a curse on his “yallow head” by one of his fallen tormentors, puts Morgan on a run that takes him to the still-fresh battlefield, down the back of the mountains and deep into the Confederacy in search of his missing brother. Morgan battles illness and attendant hallucinations, enjoys a “peaceful interlude in the heart of the land of the Brethren,” spends time in the rebel capital, falls in love and otherwise has grand adventures that would seem improbable in lesser hands. And if a long walk through the Civil War–era South seems familiar, consider the author of the echoing book one of those lesser hands by comparison with Mosher, who closes with a grand unexpected moment that, on reflection, makes perfect sense.

We are in the hands of a skilled storyteller, and every word matters. A captivating story, and one that cries for a sequel.

Pub Date: March 2, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-307-45067-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Shaye Areheart/Harmony

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2010

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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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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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