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

MAMMA'S MOON

THE HOODOO OF PECKERWOOD FINCH

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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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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Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s...

HOME FRONT

 The traumatic homecoming of a wounded warrior.

The daughter of alcoholics who left her orphaned at 17, Jolene “Jo” Zarkades found her first stable family in the military: She’s served over two decades, first in the army, later with the National Guard. A helicopter pilot stationed near Seattle, Jo copes as competently at home, raising two daughters, Betsy and Lulu, while trying to dismiss her husband Michael’s increasing emotional distance. Jo’s mettle is sorely tested when Michael informs her flatly that he no longer loves her. Four-year-old Lulu clamors for attention while preteen Betsy, mean-girl-in-training, dismisses as dweeby her former best friend, Seth, son of Jo’s confidante and fellow pilot, Tami. Amid these challenges comes the ultimate one: Jo and Tami are deployed to Iraq. Michael, with the help of his mother, has to take over the household duties, and he rapidly learns that parenting is much harder than his wife made it look. As Michael prepares to defend a PTSD-afflicted veteran charged with Murder I for killing his wife during a dissociative blackout, he begins to understand what Jolene is facing and to revisit his true feelings for her. When her helicopter is shot down under insurgent fire, Jo rescues Tami from the wreck, but a young crewman is killed. Tami remains in a coma and Jo, whose leg has been amputated, returns home to a difficult rehabilitation on several fronts. Her nightmares in which she relives the crash and other horrors she witnessed, and her pain, have turned Jo into a person her daughters now fear (which in the case of bratty Betsy may not be such a bad thing). Jo can't forgive Michael for his rash words. Worse, she is beginning to remind Michael more and more of his homicide client. Characterization can be cursory: Michael’s earlier callousness, left largely unexplained, undercuts the pathos of his later change of heart. 

Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s aftermath.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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