Muted, poignant drama with an immensely appealing depth, plain grace—and echoes of Inclán’s Her Daughter’s Eyes (2000).


A fault line opens—and a troubled family is torn apart.

Peri MacKenzie must care for her severely handicapped child without much help after her selfish husband decamps, but she does so with heart and humor . . .until the day she disappears. Then her precociously maternal daughter Carly takes over, carefully feeding five-year-old Brooke through a tube, cleaning and diapering her paralyzed body, and cheering her up with TV cartoons. Faithfully following Peri’s routine, right down to greeting her sister every morning with the wry “Hello, Exceptional Individual,” Carly wonders when her mother will come back—never doubting her return. But she doesn’t. Not wanting to cause trouble for her beleaguered family, resigned to receiving no help from her mostly oblivious 15-year-old brother, Carly gets by, hoping Brooke won’t spike a fever, as she frequently does. When the thermometer reveals a temperature that Tylenol won’t bring down, she calls on neighbor Rosie Candelero, a nurse, for help, and at last the social workers arrive. The little girl is found to have bedsores and other ailments, though it’s clear that Carly did her best. Eventually, Peri’s ex-husband Graham shows up—not that he’s immediately willing to admit any responsibility for driving his unwanted former family into near poverty. Someone else is going to have to be a hero. He couldn’t do it when Brooke was born and he can’t do it now. Then Peri’s father Carl returns, more or less out of the blue. A well-off, retired real-estate agent, Carl abandoned Peri and her mother Janice long ago, and now regrets it. He sees the situation as his chance to make amends and redeem himself, though Janice has been dead for several years and Peri is now in a mental institution (that’s where she’s gone) after a suicide attempt. Yet slowly—ever so slowly—the family begins to heal.

Muted, poignant drama with an immensely appealing depth, plain grace—and echoes of Inclán’s Her Daughter’s Eyes (2000).

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-451-20787-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: NAL/Berkley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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