Fairly short ruminations, all written in a plain, unambiguous style.

MISSED HER

Queer fiction from Canada, more anecdote and personal reflection than stories per se, a number involving a character named Ivan Coyote (The Slow Fix, 2008, etc.).

The sexuality of Coyote is never far from the center of her narrative arc. She reflects on growing up different in Whitehorse, Yukon Territories, and on having the persona but not the language for “butch.” Many of her stories revolve around family—an alcoholic father who eventually remarries his childhood sweetheart, a grandmother who has an affair while her husband is out of the country on a job—while others reflect Coyote’s preoccupation with gender and identity, though the line between the themes of family and identity is blurry. In “Objects in Mirror Are Queerer Than They Appear,” for example, after sifting through a photograph album and seeing pictures of herself as a child, Coyote tries to track down when her family knew she was different. Her Uncle John affirms and reassures her by saying, “ ‘We were just glad you weren’t stupid. There’s no cure for stupid.’ ” In “Some of My Best Friends are Rednecks” Coyote feels shame because a stereotypical “man-hating lesbian” berates one of Coyote’s friends for reading her book on a bus. “Straight Teens Talk Queer” focuses on how a group of kids at a Vancouver Public Library book camp look at issues of homophobia, and Coyote draws comfort about the possibility of cultural change from their attitude of acceptance. Other stories give us advice about how to get on the “road to repair” after a failed love affair (“Step One. Get up. Do it now. There you go.”). A follow-up to this story involves the “butch version of the ten steps to getting over the ex” (e.g., “Get a haircut…Road trip…Going places with your dog in your truck”).

Fairly short ruminations, all written in a plain, unambiguous style.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-55152-371-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 23, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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