This novel isn’t for the squeamish, prudish, or faint of heart.

A DECENT RIDE

When Ronald Checker hops into the back of Terry “Juice” Lawson’s taxi late one night in Edinburgh, on the eve of Hurricane Bawbag, Terry finds himself entangled in various webs of love, lust, money, and violence.

Checker is an American "punk businessman" complete with reality TV stardom, Southern pedigree, and fanatical, self-serving religious faith. When he hops into the back of Terry’s cab and hires him for the remainder of his stay in the city, Terry’s life begins to stockpile not only criminal plots, but also an onslaught of undesirables one might hope to avoid: his flighty half brother, Jonty MacKay, who works under-the-table painting gigs; his various bastard children; several prostitutes; “The Poof,” a local gang ringleader, and his posse; a Dane with a competing offer on a rare bottle of Scotch; and too many women to count or catalog. Terry manages to deal drugs, placate the man-child millionaire, and shag his way across the entire Midlothian; he attempts to locate a missing call girl, nearly reconnects with his children, and discovers that his heart is no longer healthy enough for sex. His relationships are plenty, complicated, and nuanced. As always, Welsh (The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins, 2015, etc.) takes things from zero to 60 in his latest novel. Chapters alternate between the perspectives of various characters, and many are written entirely in broad Scots, one of Welsh’s trademark stylings. Also true to form are the characters, always gritty and with unrelenting personality. The baggage each character lugs around is heavy, often resulting in various shades of violence such as rape, murder, and arson. Masterfully, Terry develops and stays true to his almost fiendish appetites throughout the novel, all while exploring his complicated family history and romantic endeavors, and still manages to avoid incarceration.

This novel isn’t for the squeamish, prudish, or faint of heart.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-54089-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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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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