THE RED JACKET

Francis Albert Forsythe, teenager and aspiring professional baseball player, experiences a series of near-death events and discovers that God may have different plans for his future in Perkins’ debut novel.

Former reporter and freelance writer Perkins tells of an adolescent boy coming of age somewhere near the Pacific Northwest in 1964. Francis, introspective and the oldest of eight, loves to read and play baseball. His life’s ambition is to become a center fielder for the New York Yankees, although he confesses to considering other career paths, including the priesthood. His ambitions and freshman year in high school are abruptly interrupted by rheumatic fever resulting in a lengthy hospital stay and recovery under the watchful eye of his protective Italian mother. While ill and near death, Francis dreams vividly of an encounter with Jesus, who tells Francis the decision to live or die as well as his own destiny, whether baseball or priesthood, is in his own hands. Post-illness, it is during a visit to his grandparents in Oregon, which includes several more close calls with death, that Francis finds his way to adulthood and the path to his future. Perkins deftly captures the inner workings of the adolescent male with all the accompanying angst of budding sexuality, desire for independence and poignant self-discovery. Adolescent readers will easily identify with Francis’ chafing against his mother’s restrictions and his uneasy relationships with his stepfather and siblings. Perkins’ descriptions of Francis’ home and the places he visits are vibrant and filled with small details that smoothly draw the reader into Francis’ world. Perkins is less adept at keeping track of the large cast of supporting characters and occasionally stumbles. Aunt Ramona, described on page 63, becomes Aunt Lenora on page 68. Francis’ sister, Loretta, is sometimes referred to as Rena, with no explanation if this is a nickname or the wrong name. These inconsistencies can be distracting against an otherwise attentively detailed backdrop. An enjoyably insightful story that gives readers a glimpse into the heart and mind of a young man on his way to making life-changing decisions.

 

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2011

ISBN: 978-0615543147

Page Count: 184

Publisher: The Red Jacket

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2012

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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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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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