Owing as much to Sula as to Susan Isaacs, Weiner’s follow-up lacks some of the bite of her first novel, but still tells a...

IN HER SHOES

Weiner follows her sharp, funny debut (Good in Bed, 2001) with a look at the sometimes-chafing bonds of sisterhood.

Ella Hirsch volunteers. Meals-on-Wheels, the local thrift store, books for the blind, even a weekly column for the Golden Acres Gazette, a weekly published by and for residents of her “retirement community for active seniors.” But all the pet shelters in the world can’t distract her from the pain of losing her daughter Caroline 20 years ago. Still worse, Caroline’s husband, Michael Feller, refuses Ella all contact with her granddaughters, telling the girls that grandma’s been “in a home” they can’t visit. Instead, Rose and Maggie are raised by Michael’s second wife, Sydelle the Stepmonster, who feeds pudgy Rose sugar-free Jello for dessert while the rest of the family has ice cream (reminding her that “when My Marcia got married, she bought a size six Vera Wang—and had it taken in”) and who tells dyslexic Maggie, “We’ll get you a tutor,” but instead lets her get shunted into special ed, where incompetent teachers hand out endless worksheets while Maggie does her nails. No wonder that Rose goes to Princeton and eventually lands a job with Philadelphia law firm Lewis, Dommel, and Fenick but remains “a grown-up bookworm with a decent wardrobe,” while glamorous Maggie works a series of dead-end jobs, always dreaming she’s about to break into show business. What she breaks instead is Rose’s heart—camping out in her living room when she’s evicted from her apartment, running up Rose’s credit cards, wearing her shoes, and stealing everything she needs most—all the while relying on Rose’s sturdy sense of responsibility to shield her from the consequences.

Owing as much to Sula as to Susan Isaacs, Weiner’s follow-up lacks some of the bite of her first novel, but still tells a poignant tale of two damaged girls who need to find themselves so that they can find each other.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-7434-1819-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2002

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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 steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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