An extremely satisfying tale about the realities of marriage and love.


In this literary novel, two intertwined marriages on the rocks are brought to a crisis point.

Marine veteran Denny D’Angelo still suffers from medical problems he sustained during the Persian Gulf War: “The scent from a woman’s perfume, a fresh coat of paint on a neighbor’s house, even spring pollen, can set off days in the dark with migraine or debilitating allergy attacks.” His wife, school librarian Willow, has never forgiven him for joining the Marines in the first place, and she resents his refusal, after getting back home, to help her fulfill her dream of motherhood. Now that she’s started to have feelings for another man, she’s decided she wants a divorce. That other man is Blake Golden, a high school principal who has also tired of his marriage to a wife he cannot please. Jillian dreamed of becoming a ballet dancer, but ever since that goal proved impossible, she’s limped through life, unable to be the wife or mother her family needs. All their plans are thrown off when Willow is involved in a car accident and slips into a coma. How did these couples get to this place? And where will they go from here? Tramontano’s (Standing on the Corner of Lost and Found, 2011) expressive prose intimately follows the thoughts of her characters: “Willow’s desolation deepened each month. When she could barely drag herself through a day, she finally got pregnant again. She promised herself she would tell Denny the evening the doctor confirmed it, but didn’t. Never told him about the miscarriage either.” The four main players are all well drawn and compelling, though a reporter who takes an interest in the couples—Lily Lerner, who is undergoing her own personal crisis—seems like a bit of a fifth wheel. Things wrap up too neatly, perhaps—particularly with Lily there to explain everything on her blog—but as the plot unspools, readers will mostly feel like they are being granted an authentic view into the lives of the characters. The author plays with the expectations people have going into marriages and how often they are disappointed—but also how the potential for change is often waiting somewhere on the next block.

An extremely satisfying tale about the realities of marriage and love.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-949180-47-3

Page Count: 428

Publisher: Adelaide Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2019

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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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