A testament to the strength of women and girls with a side of philosophy, myth, and metaphysics.


Brace yourself: The end of the world is coming. Or is it? A multilayered, Indigenous-inflected version of the apocalypse that resists predictability.

Calliope Santiago is an anthropologist and a young mother heavily pregnant with twins the day the Earth changes forever. As she’s driving home from her job as a professor at the University of New Mexico, there’s a blinding flash, and Calliope crashes her car. When she comes to, everyone else is gone, rapture-style. Well, almost everyone—Calliope’s 6-year-old neighbor, Eunjoo, also remains, inexplicably. The two flee Albuquerque, where long-dormant volcanoes, newly awakened, are burying the city in molten lava, and head for Calliope’s aunt’s hacienda in the Gila Mountains to the south. On the way, Calliope and Eunjoo amass an unlikely crew of fellow left-behinds, each with his or her role to play as their odyssey unfolds. The author of several poetry collections, first-time novelist Givhan employs Southwestern Puebloan mythology to inform the plot—as when Kachina dolls come to life as the monstrous and deadly Suuke, half-gods, half-monsters hell-bent on destroying Calliope and her companions. Givhan also makes contemporary connections, as when she invokes Kennewick Man, the ancient skeleton discovered in Washington state in the 1990s, and refers to the years of controversy between scientists, the U.S. government, and Native American tribes before the remains were eventually repatriated. Another character, Mara, who’s the partner of Calliope’s missing aunt, witnessed the birth of the atomic bomb in the 1940s when her father was sent to Los Alamos to work on the top-secret Manhattan project. Mara often links the nuclear terror of her childhood and the rending they’re witnessing near the end of her life. Givhan’s themes are complex and occasionally compete with the twists and turns of the plot for a reader’s attention. Still, texture and nuance are rare among disaster narratives and are welcome here.

A testament to the strength of women and girls with a side of philosophy, myth, and metaphysics.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5385-5672-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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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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