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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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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