A vibrant, creative, youthful yarn about personal freedom and self-discovery played out against an American West backdrop.

DUDEVILLE

An adventure tale charts the spiritual and personal evolution of an uneasy former engineer.

Kleinke’s (Catching Babies, 2011, etc.) novel centers on the wanderlust plaguing a man who, at 37, flees “the steady grind of a corporate job Back East to the wild blur of the mountains Out West” to embrace his love of the outdoors. After the company he works for is sold and he ends his nine-year marriage, Jack moves west to realize his dream of living on his own in nature: “No wife, no job, no kids, no worries, just me, the earth, the sky, and time.” He settles in Dudeville, a Colorado ski town that he was introduced to through friends. As Jack crests numerous mountaintops, Kleinke writes compassionately and poetically about his protagonist’s uncanny detection of a spiritual presence guiding him, an “unnamed and unfiltered, indescribable but unmistakable” deity embodying the euphoric feeling of freedom in nature. Other characters drift in and out of Jack’s orbit, including Jill, his sometime girlfriend, and climbing pal Danny, while the scenery oscillates from snowboarding on the ski slopes and ascending mountains to facing the melodrama of Dudeville’s hangout bar. Kleinke fleshes out Jack’s character with memories of his bruised childhood at the hands of a drunken father and a mother hobbled by debilitating pain. Yet the author leavens this with episodes involving jam bands, a pack of wolves, pot smoking and Ecstasy, sex, and plenty of free-flowing, “dude”-laden dialogue, which all blurs together as the narrative ebbs and flows. The gang scales the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada and moves across the Arizona desert canyons and the scorched Wyoming plains, inviting further spiritual awakenings and opportunities for reflection and inner healing for Jack. But it will be the interpersonal swirl of youthful histrionics, beer gulping, and high-fives that will keep readers who enjoy the lighter side of Kleinke’s bro-fiction entertained. Nature lovers and adventure travelers will certainly appreciate the author’s lush, descriptive prose and vivid action scenes, most notably when focused on Jack’s love of the natural world, his aloneness within it, and the breathless beauty surrounding him when atop a mountain glazed in snow and dazzling sunlight. His restlessness resumes by the story’s conclusion, leaving the engine running for further possible escapades on the slopes and beyond.

A vibrant, creative, youthful yarn about personal freedom and self-discovery played out against an American West backdrop.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-97776-7

Page Count: 433

Publisher: Bayamet LLC

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2017

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

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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