A crusading novel that blends architectural elements with the beauty of nature to evoke the benefits of sustainable...

THE ARCHITECT WHO COULDN'T SING

A young man receives a mysterious letter and map from the father he once thought dead in this debut novel.

Charlie Cadwell lost his mother at an early age and was raised by his grandmother, all the while believing his father never came back from the Vietnam War. But upon his college graduation, Charlie receives a letter from his long lost father asking him to come to him in Washington. There, he is met with a wondrous sight: the Fish Camp, an architectural utopia built upon the principles of enabling structures. Even more wondrous than the architecture he encounters at Fish Camp, however, is Maggie, the beautiful young woman who works as a nature conservationist. Reunited with his father, Charlie learns the truth behind their estrangement: broken by the Vietnam War, his father, CM, committed an act of treason and went underground. But CM has plans for Charlie; he wants him to present a design based on the Fish Camp for a contest soliciting ideas about the future of urban development. While Charlie decides whether or not to help his father, he embarks on building the last Fish Camp unit, mostly to impress and seduce Maggie. The book showcases what seem to be Alt’s two great loves: nature and architecture. With detailed, meticulous descriptions, Alt brings the Fish Camp to life and does a commendable job of explaining how it exemplifies the idea that building horizontal is more advantageous than building vertical. But Alt is equally concerned with the conservation of nature; Maggie’s battle against fish hatcheries works as metaphor for the entire battle to save the environment from destruction caused by humans. The lofty message, at times, feels a little too heavy handed with characters serving as uniformed stereotypes who don’t understand the negative consequences of their actions. Despite a rather rushed ending, Alt’s book draws to a satisfying conclusion that hinges on the strength of the relationships the author creates.

A crusading novel that blends architectural elements with the beauty of nature to evoke the benefits of sustainable development.

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 2011

ISBN: 978-1457507205

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2012

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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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