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

THE MURAL

A NOVEL

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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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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

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