Evocative, sad, at times funny, and never completely without hope, a story that studies what it means to be alone later in...

NINE ISLAND

This immersive, cerebral novel centers on J, a woman teetering on the balance between the concrete, sometimes grim responsibilities of her daily life and an equally urgent personal dilemma: should she “retire” from love and romance?

Memoirist, translator, and novelist Alison (The Sisters Antipodes, 2009, etc.) sets a surreal scene: a Miami beachfront apartment building, a “musty old Love Boat,” where the structure and many of its residents are in the process of death and decay. J lives on the 21st floor in a box-shaped flat with cork floors and mirrored walls. Her building, a large block consisting of smaller blocks, is mirrored by the building across the way, where she witnesses scenes of human connection and disconnection, innocent and otherwise. Everyone in this book is known only by their first initial or their role, such as “my mother” or “Par-T-Boy,” contributing to the sense of disconnection J and the reader experience together. In her cube, J embarks on a project similar to Alison’s own book Change Me (2014), translating sex stories by Ovid into English. As she works, she considers giving up on sex and romantic life after the end of a 10-year marriage and a tour of exes, culminating in one month spent with “Sir Gold,” the one who got away, who doesn’t want her back anymore. Her intellectual life is punctuated by obligatory dates with local suitors, an ailing mother, an incontinent cat, and a newly formed friendship with a neighbor couple. She ventures out to swim laps in the building’s hourglass-shaped pool and walk the beach, where she feeds and attempts to rescue a wounded duck. While narrating her own story, J acknowledges she’s speaking to an audience, but her stories don’t form an epic tale; rather, they are a series of short chapters, elliptical dips into and out of experiences past and present.

Evocative, sad, at times funny, and never completely without hope, a story that studies what it means to be alone later in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-936-78712-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Catapult

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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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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