An intense, sometimes-brutal novel about acknowledging and escaping an abusive relationship.

THE OTHER CHEEK

BOY MEETS GIRL. GIRL BEATS BOY. JUST YOUR TYPICAL LOVE STORY...

In Danbury’s debut novel, a marriage begins to crumble under the stress of abuse and mental illness.

Rich Bryson is a freelance cameraman working in television production. He has steady work, and he’s excited to be marrying Tami Matthews, a beautiful aspiring actress who can also sing and dance: “It was just a matter of time before it was her turn to shine,” she thinks to herself. Early on, Tami shows signs of an alarming temper, as when she gets a parking ticket and loudly curses the entire city of Anaheim, California. After a wedding that Tami has carefully orchestrated—but which still fails to satisfy her wish for perfection—she and Rich settle into their new life as a married couple. Soon, Tami begins flying into rages and taking it out on her husband—hitting him and pulling out chunks of his hair. When she discovers that her sibling is pursuing acting, she hits a new level of fury, screaming, “I hate my brother!” As a result, the abuse escalates, and Rich starts to fear his wife. The physical and psychological tolls then start to interfere with his work. Meanwhile, Tami’s mental health seems to be eroding: She starts talking to herself, repeating the phrase, “It doesn’t go with that”; she hears voices and grins maniacally; and her words and actions become stranger and more alarming. Rich gets help from his siblings, who formulate a plan to save him from Tami, but she has no plans to make it easy for him to leave. The novel’s short chapters move quickly, wasting little time on the relationship’s halcyon days. When moments of abuse occasionally give way to intimate moments of reconnection, Danbury shows how the protagonist rekindles his hope for a loving relationship: “Rich never knew what to expect anymore.” The author has a good sense of pace and tension, which he ratchets up during scenes of domestic cruelty. He also has a knack for rendering vivid action. But when the prose gets more figurative, it struggles to maintain the same clarity. For instance, when Rich and Tami return from an idyllic anniversary weekend, a tragic discovery exacerbates Tami’s fragile mental state: “Instantaneously, a glacial chunk of her remaining sanity had cleaved away and was ripped to smithereens, and what was left of her fragile world crumpled like a house of cards in a hurricane.” The general aim is apparent here, but the metaphors are too mixed to mean very much. Tami initially seems like an unlikely abuser, but her behavior becomes far less surprising as Danbury shows the extent of her mental illness. It’s not always clear what her disorder is, however; she shows signs of narcissism, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and mania. The author never makes Tami a sympathetic character, but the evidence that she’s unwell saves her from seeming cartoonishly villainous. One highlight of the book is the soundtrack: Numerous mentions of songs pepper the novel, sometimes reflecting and sometimes belying the feelings of the characters.

An intense, sometimes-brutal novel about acknowledging and escaping an abusive relationship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73334-400-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: JEFE PRESS

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 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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