A captivating story of one dog’s experience of crisis and healing, illustrated with the author’s evocative portraits of...

Punitive Damages

A kindhearted couple rescues a down-on-her-luck Weimaraner, but now all parties must face a five-day trial period.

Stories of animal-human bonding are not uncommon, but what sets Lively’s (The Puzzle Aesthetic, 2012) novella apart is the fact that the story is told from the point of view of a dog. When readers first meet the story’s protagonist, a Weimaraner, she is on a hospital bed being treated for injuries from an accident she can’t remember. As her mind clears, she realizes that she has no recollection of anything from her previous life, not even her name. But she becomes ever more certain that she “must be of aristocratic stock,” as she is all too aware of the indignities of institutional life in the animal hospital as she heals from her fractured leg and broken teeth. She is eventually adopted by a “grumpy guy” and his “kinder and gentler” female partner, who give her the name PJ. As the three get to know each other, PJ teaches her new owners about her needs by using her wits and dexterity to escape from every restraint and enclosure, often with hilariously destructive results. Although the man becomes increasingly irritated with each new transgression, his essential good nature, coupled with the patient and perceptive influence of the woman, leads to eventual understanding and true friendship between dog and human. Lively’s writing is vivid and engaging, and he creates three believable and memorable characters. His detailed description of PJ’s perspective on the trial period of her adoption may offer important insights to help new pet owners understand the emotional needs that lie behind destructive behavior. The author skillfully introduces PJ’s point of view, with a focus on scent that makes it realistically doglike. But developing such an alternative narration becomes complex, and Lively never makes it clear how PJ can understand the couple’s English conversations perfectly, yet she seems unable to communicate directly with the other dogs she encounters. Such inconsistencies jar a little, and a reader is left feeling that PJ’s existence must be a little lonely with so much knowledge and so few ways to express herself. Perhaps a series of PJ books is in order to allow the further exploration of the inner world of dogs.

A captivating story of one dog’s experience of crisis and healing, illustrated with the author’s evocative portraits of Weimaraners.

Pub Date: June 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-939166-97-5

Page Count: 174

Publisher: Merrimack Media

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2016

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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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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

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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