Love him or hate him, Steven weighs his options with a unique and strong voice as he searches for the value of commitment in...

ASKING ANNA

A NOVEL

In Seliger’s quirky debut, a 20-something who’s reluctant to propose to his girlfriend brings her to Seattle to visit old friends before he makes his final decision.

Rather than boarding the plane and seeing what happens, Steven is standing quietly in the security line thinking deep thoughts: “there is no better setting for revelation than a trip, ideally one fraught with meaning.” His internal monologue is, at times, overly ponderous. It’s also funny. Steven’s influences range from economist Dan Ariely to comedian Chris Rock as he tries to explain why he’s still carrying Anna’s ring around in a box rather than giving it to her; lists, charts, and footnotes illustrate his reasons. Even the auto-filled answers he finds in Google’s search results seem to offer insights on the differences between men and women when it comes to love (e.g., “why won’t she swallow” vs. “why won’t he marry me”). Some of his observations are eloquent—“so many old people become bitter over time, like over-brewed cups of tea”—while others are crude: “I like forward girls. And wet ones.” Steven tries consulting his old college buddies and casual partners about his dilemma, but all they do is become mirrors, showing him his own flaws. His friend Cooper, for instance, is too much of a party animal to have a mature opinion about marriage, and when Steven is tempted by other women in bars, he finds he’s not much better than Cooper. While Steven considers himself to be an academic, Anna more aptly describes him as being “in his late twenties, going on 16.” He’s so self-absorbed that Anna’s character is often more of an abstract idea than a living, breathing woman. It takes a cancer scare to show that Steven’s fear of adulthood isn’t limited to his fear of commitment. He barely acknowledges that his lab results might bring bad news as he stays out all night while Anna sleeps. He also fails to consider that Anna’s commitment to him isn’t guaranteed.

Love him or hate him, Steven weighs his options with a unique and strong voice as he searches for the value of commitment in a hookup culture.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1495242212

Page Count: 242

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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