THE MURAL

A NOVEL

Far more than just a paint-by-numbers story of a small town.

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In Halverson’s debut novel, a mysterious mural appears overnight on the side of a building in an Arizona town, sparking a range of emotions and examinations of life.

How humans spend their brief time on Earth has been the subject of countless tales. Seemingly endless, time is actually limited and precious. That’s the theme of Halverson’s simple mystery story with shades of something much more profound. Tyler Anderson, a reporter for a news site in Phoenix, yearns to write about something other than the minutiae of municipal affairs. His chance comes when his editor sends him to Ketchum, a sleepy former mining town, to write about a large mural by an unknown artist that appeared overnight on the side of a warehouse. Expecting to simply identify the artist and write the story, Anderson finds more than he bargained for. Due to its unique effects on every person who sees it, the mural attracts attention from all over, and it’s now become the heart of a long-simmering rivalry between Mayor George Correa and the warehouse’s owner, Samuel Welch. As Anderson investigates his story, he realizes it’s about more than just identifying the mystery artist; it’s about people’s expectations, how to stop bemoaning fate and how to use precious time wisely. The well-written story starts as a character study of Anderson, veers into an examination of why Samuel insists on painting over the mural, and finally becomes a look at the human soul and how some people are willing to give up their dreams just to get through life. Filled with intriguing characters—fry cook Abdullah Park, waitress Audrey Betz, struggling artist Grady James—the story takes a few unnecessary back-story detours and requires a suspension of disbelief that might be too much for some readers. But Halverson is after a different audience: those who know life must be lived and felt, not just experienced.

Far more than just a paint-by-numbers story of a small town.

Pub Date: July 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0692225868

Page Count: 266

Publisher: Grand Strand Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2014

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A LITTLE LIFE

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

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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