MAMMA'S MOON

THE HOODOO OF PECKERWOOD FINCH

An affecting novel that richly captures the inimitable spirit of Louisiana.

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In two intersecting tales set in Louisiana, an elderly black veteran kills his attacker and faces a murder trial while his Cajun French best friend tries to discover the truth about the mother he never knew. 

Gabriel Jordan, an “aging army captain” and “veteran of Korea and Vietnam,” is threatened by a young white man, Kenneth Bauer, at a Walmart in New Orleans, and as a result buys a cane for a future act of self-defense. Later, Kenneth hunts the vet down and threatens him with a knife, and Gabe beats him to death with that cane. He’s arrested for second-degree murder, a charge that could stick, especially because the knife is nowhere to be found. And Gabe, despite his advanced age, is known to be an “experienced, highly trained, battle-savvy army captain.” Gabe is less haunted by the prospect of prison time than he is by the enormity of what’s he done, a poignant moral nuance characteristic of this thoughtful drama: “Let me work it out in my mind….I’m an old man. I need to make it right in my head and with God.” Meanwhile, his best friend, Boudreau Clemont “Peck” Finch—who overcomes illiteracy and gets accepted into college in under a year’s time—decides he needs to track down his real mother, a woman who remains a mystery to him. But as his relationship with his girlfriend, Millie, becomes ever more serious, he worries that she won’t be able to accept his inauspicious beginnings. He travels to the Louisiana swamps that he fled when he was only 9 years old, the victim of morbidly dark abuse. Antil’s (One More Last Dance, 2017, etc.) touching sequel draws heavily from the plot established in the first novel, but remains an “entirely self-contained story.” The author palpably re-creates the electrifying energy of New Orleans, a combination of old-world merriment and lurking danger (“The velvet sax was an offer of promise and calm for the old man, jazz aficionado, dancer, and troubled soul”). Further, Peck is a memorable character—surprisingly deep and boyishly innocent simultaneously, he provides both comic levity and some of the book’s most moving moments. 

An affecting novel that richly captures the inimitable spirit of Louisiana. 

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73263-210-3

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Little York Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2019

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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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