An assured and surprisingly gripping tale about the perils of ideological conformity.


Two men have their certainties upended in this story’s parallel plots.

In Warren’s debut novel, Cary University English professor Alan Fernwood feels fairly content with his life. His wife is out of town, his children are grown and out of the house, he teaches an intellectually lively class on Shakespeare’s plays, and he’s steadily working on his latest book of academic literary criticism, Shakespeare’s Journey. Likewise, Cary City Herald newspaper reporter Elvin Alvarez is moderately happy turning out unobjectionable copy reporting on discoveries in science, technology, and medicine. But in short order both men are startled out of their complacency. While seeing his wife off for her long trip to her parents’ home in Taipei, Taiwan, Fernwood buys a book at the airport on the Shakespeare Authorship Question. He’s smugly skeptical at first (“he felt angry and impatient that anyone would waste time on such nonsense”), but the more he reads about the subject, the more he begins to doubt his former certainties about whether or not the Man from Stratford actually wrote the plays attributed to William Shakespeare. Even while he continues to teach his class with undiminished skill (the long stretches narrating these class sessions are genuinely absorbing as general-interest probes into the plays), his certainty about the standard Shakespeare story starts to rapidly erode. Meanwhile, in an effort to make his columns more controversial, Alvarez digs into the “settled science” regarding humanity-propelled global warming. He begins his investigations sure about the oft-cited scientific consensus on the subject, but “the more he learned, the harder it was to see how human-produced carbon dioxide could have much effect on the planet’s climate.” Warren peppers these ideological themes with some human conflict in his cerebral and meaty tale (Alvarez is in love with Fernwood’s daughter, and Fernwood himself is moonstruck by one of his young students). But the book’s main interest (only slightly weakened by its split focus) is its energetic dissection of the science of global warming and particularly the details of the Shakespearean authorship debate. (At one point, Fernwood discovers that Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. never thought Shakespeare wrote the works “because no evidence exists that he had ever visited Italy, where a dozen of the plays are set.”) Even readers familiar with the controversy will learn something in this intellectually fast-paced telling.

An assured and surprisingly gripping tale about the perils of ideological conformity.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5334-1421-2

Page Count: 396

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2017

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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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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...


Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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