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WILLNOT

A brisk and sure-handed treat.

From veteran Sallis (Others of My Kind, 2013, etc.) comes this short, charming novel that's part noir mystery and part small-town slice of life.

The story starts fast and portentously (its first four words are "We found the bodies…"), and the book has the form of a suspense novel: there's a bewildering mass grave that must be excavated; a suddenly returned native, Bobby Lowndes, a boyhood-coma survivor who seems to be a military sniper gone AWOL, who keeps managing, wraithlike, to hide in plain sight; a dogged FBI agent named Theodora Ogden in town to track Lowndes; and more. It also has a talky, noirish tone, with lots of snappy patter and sharp, laconic, philosophical observation. But at its core, and satisfyingly, this turns out to be a character-driven novel about a thoroughly thoughtful, decent, compassionate doctor, Lamar Hale, and his community of colleagues, patients, friends, and acquaintances. Lamar and his wisecracking romantic partner, Richard, a teacher, provide a still domestic center around which the chaos revolves. Part of it is the usual stuff of noir, expertly deployed, and part the material of the eccentric-small-town novel. Sallis builds suspense over the many months the story spans by alternating between plot point and shaggy dog anecdote, making the reader wonder when and how the novel's two kinds of plot and rhythm will entwine: when will the violence and darkness finally encroach on this cozy domestic sphere and threaten or destroy it? Sallis' latest has a lot to recommend it: an ingenious and unusual use of the MacGuffin; pungent dialogue; a world that's either dark shot through with abundant light or light shot through with abundant dark; likable, complex characters.

A brisk and sure-handed treat.

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63286-452-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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