An honest look at ugliness, hope, and love in a struggling small town.

RULES OF THUMB

In this debut novel, an act of destruction sends a high school football player’s life spiraling toward blessed terrain.

Eighteen-year-old Orville “Orv” Osentoski plays high school football in Canton, Michigan. Part of the state’s Thumb (five counties that are “economically and culturally depressed”), “Can’t Town” loves nothing more than high school sports and beer. One night after a game in neighboring Frankendorf, Orv falls asleep in the locker room, missing the team’s bus home. He shatters a urinal while escaping the locked building and then walks to a tavern called Der Bierstube. Inside he finds Canton’s town drunk, Matty MacDougall, and asks for a ride home. In Matty’s roach-infested 1966 Mercury Montego, the two tour several more bars. After hearing of Orv’s escape, Matty nicknames him Chief and repeats the story to anyone who’ll listen. In the Dunkel Bar, a bartender named Brenda Slohn—who has a large birthmark on her face—sits on Chief’s lap, giving the reserved teen a taste of the Thumb’s adult nightlife. But he also comes away from the experience realizing that Matty, out of Canton’s large crop of characters, has a “diamond-among-rhinestones affability.” He also can’t stop thinking about Brenda, who’s six years older than he is. In this ribald tale, MacNeil offers an unflinching examination of downturned America, where “landscapes are increasingly acned with strip malls and housing complexes,” and most adults consume at least six alcoholic drinks a day. While difficult subjects are explored, the prose delivers excellent psychological nuances; Chief’s father, Garland, strikes his mother and “watching his wife fly across the room reminded him of his football days, which unearthed a confusing mix of contradictory emotions, like...pride and worthlessness.” The author lightens the mood with puns and sexual commentary. When English teacher Liina “Ol’ Bitch” Olbich asks her students to write a paper about someone in Canton whom they admire, Chief’s determination to portray Matty favorably proves emotionally revelatory, for the town’s citizens and MacNeil’s audience. Overall, sweetness and levity battle with bawdiness for the tone of this story.

An honest look at ugliness, hope, and love in a struggling small town.

Pub Date: May 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5356-0712-4

Page Count: 330

Publisher: WaveCloud Corporation

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 13

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

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

Did you like this book?

more