A skillfully written, well-researched book.

AMERICAN GHOST

Owens brings a dark period of history to light in a book about Southern allegiances, racial tensions and shameful acts.

When anthropology student Sam Lense shows up to research the Indian population in tiny Hendrix, Fla., he has far deeper reasons for wanting to be there. In 1938, his Jewish great-grandfather, a storekeeper, was shot and killed by a black man who stole a pack of cigarettes. Henry Kite was pursued by the local sheriff, whom he also gunned down, and an outraged group of locals meted out their own form of justice on Kite’s family. By the time Kite was captured, tortured, mutilated and hanged, five other members of his family had also been lynched, including his mother and pregnant sister. As Sam works out of his tiny trailer and tries to investigate without arousing the ire of the community, he falls in love with Jolie, the daughter of a Pentecostal preacher and a member of the Hoyt clan, a rough-and-tumble hillbilly family that take care of their own. After Sam and Jolie become engaged, he accompanies some of the Hoyt men to the family’s fishing camp and gets shot in the back. Discovering that Sam hasn’t been totally honest with her about his reasons for coming to Hendrix, Jolie feels betrayed and leaves Florida to attend design school in Savannah. And Sam, feeling hurt and abandoned by Jolie’s absence, finally gets on with his life. Fast-forward several years, and enter Hollis Frazier and his brother, who claim to have a personal interest in the lynching. As they stir up the ashes, Jolie and Sam are once again drawn to their ancestors’ past and to each other as they try to lay to rest the events that have haunted the community since 1938 and to discover the circumstances surrounding the night when Sam was shot.

A skillfully written, well-researched book.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-7463-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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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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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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