Meditations on some of life’s biggest questions as told through some harrowing experiences.

because

A caring counselor with all the answers is sent into a tailspin after a tragic climbing accident on Mount Everest.

When Roberto Sanchez is first introduced, he’s a surly, bitter shell of a man, unable to cope with the horrible loss of his legs—the grim result of surviving a sudden avalanche on the world’s highest mountain. Each day the man wheels into his therapist’s office, he appears darker and more despondent than the day before. His loving wife, Monique, and steadfast daughter, Jenny, are at wit’s end, fearing that although Roberto has survived death, he remains stubbornly locked in the icy clutches of a life-sapping grief. Only when his journal is cracked open, and stories of his many encounters with at-risk kids emerge, is Roberto’s true identity revealed. Despite the nihilism that seeped into his battered and traumatized heart, Roberto was one of the most upbeat and insightful human beings anyone would ever want to meet. Through his work, Roberto practically single-handedly rescued scores of marginalized children from the depths of the bleakest despair. Langedijk’s dialogue-heavy narrative comes alive during these often profoundly moving and genuinely touching vignettes. For instance, Kong, an overweight loner mentored by Roberto, moonlights as an anonymous online angel for other depressed kids like himself while also meticulously describing his efforts to connect in the real world. “I don’t know if you remember,” he tells Roberto, “but purple, purple is where someone says hi or even waves or nods. Well, I don’t know if you noticed but when I first did this I never had any purple, but now every day—purple….Purple!” If that doesn’t loosen a tear, there’s the story in Roberto’s journal of a cheerful doorman named Aaron, who started life as boy-soldier in Joseph Kony’s ghastly Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. Aaron isn’t actually one of Roberto’s young clients, but like Kong and the rest of Roberto’s former charges, he helps the maimed counselor reclaim his passion for life. Langedijk has lots to say about courage, compassion, redemption, and self-worth. Although those life lessons are more compelling than the actual drama unfolding around Roberto’s post-Everest experience, they more than make the journey with him worthwhile. 

Meditations on some of life’s biggest questions as told through some harrowing experiences.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9937586-1-4

Page Count: 388

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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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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