An accomplished and stirring tale from a promising new author of historical fiction.

FREEDOM DUES

The destinies of two indentured servants from Europe converge in the American Colonies in this debut novel.

Malvina “Mallie” Ambrose spends July 1729 alone and scared in London’s Newgate Prison. An orphan, she was raised by Elizabeth “Lizzie” Batt, a thief who used Mallie as a distraction while committing her crimes. When one of Lizzie’s schemes went wrong, both were arrested and landed in Newgate. After a brief trial, Mallie is sent to the American Colonies with other convicts. Meanwhile, in the province of Ulster in Ireland, Blair Eakins faces an uncertain future. His father is dead and his community is impoverished with no viable opportunities for him or his brother, Ronald. After hearing about work in America, Blair reluctantly leaves his sweetheart, Janet Ferry, and embarks with his brother on a long and dangerous voyage to Pennsylvania. Mallie ends up in Maryland, where she is indentured by a landowner named Bradnox to work on his estate, Prosperity. In Pennsylvania, the Eakins brothers separate, and Blair begins an indenture with a cordwainer named Jeffrey Craig. By 1736, a twist of fate brings Mallie and Blair together in the same home, and they eventually fall in love. After Blair saves Mallie from abuse, he devises a desperate plan to find Ronald and secure their freedom, setting into motion a series of events that threaten to separate the lovers forever. Zuno’s novel is a splendid historical epic with complex characters and richly drawn settings. The nuanced, well-developed narrative spans nearly a decade as it follows Mallie’s and Blair’s journeys to America and the difficult circumstances of their lives as indentured servants. The author’s sturdy, workmanlike prose perfectly captures the joys and sorrows of the protagonists as they struggle to build new lives in America (“Livid, Blair watched the darkness swallow Ronald. He could not imagine ever talking to him again. At the same time, he knew he probably would never see his mother, uncle, or any other member of his family. He felt like a castaway”). Although the tale primarily centers on Mallie and Blair, the myriad supporting characters have equally memorable storylines, including Lucius Groom, a man who recognizes and nurtures Blair’s musical talents, and Ronald. Setting is a key component of the book, and the narrative deftly moves from England and Ireland to Maryland and Pennsylvania.

An accomplished and stirring tale from a promising new author of historical fiction.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7341652-2-7

Page Count: 438

Publisher: Spinning a Yarn Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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