Deftly rendered portraits of two “poster Moms” of today.


A vivid, lightly fictionalized Motherhood 101 as two women, worlds apart, find common ground in facing the challenges of child-raising.

The two women—Anna, a noted photographer married to Eliot, a fellow academic; and Cerise, a single mother and high-school drop-out—neatly reflect current anxieties about parenting in this story that’s yet more about plight than plot. In graduate school, Anna had an abortion, and she’s still troubled—and has never told Eliot about it. Her daughter, Lucy, was an easy baby and a delight, and life was good. Then Eliot failed to get tenure and, now, they have to leave their farmhouse home and move to urban California. There, in an unfamiliar hospital, Anna gives birth to Ellen. The second birth is difficult. Ellen spends time in intensive care, and Anna, tired and depressed, later finds it hard to work at her photography. She’s also lonely, and the once easygoing Lucy is now nervous and troubled by nightmares, especially about a local little girl who has disappeared. Good day care is hard to find, too, and expensive. Cerise is even worse off; she got pregnant in high school, dropped out to raise daughter Melody, and has worked as a cleaning woman for a nursing home. She didn’t mind while Melody was young and still happy to spend her time with Mom. But now an adolescent, Melody is critical, has odd friends, is drinking and having sex. Cerise finds some consolation in an affair that produces baby Travis, but, though he’s adorable, she needs to work when her welfare payments end. Shortly after, Melody runs off with her friends, Travis dies in a fire, Cerise loses everything and must move into a shelter—in the same town where Anna now lives. The two meet when Anna is checking out day care for her daughters, and they’re briefly able to help each other move on.

Deftly rendered portraits of two “poster Moms” of today.

Pub Date: April 20, 2004

ISBN: 0-7434-7007-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2004

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 12

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • National Book Award Finalist


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

Did you like this book?

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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

Did you like this book?