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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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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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