Enough loose ends for another three novels, but only readers seriously in love with overstuffed plots and feisty middle-aged...

GOODBYE, EARL

The four women who bonded in Bad Girl Creek (2001) and dealt with complications in Along Came Mary (2003) return for the allegedly final volume of Mapson’s trilogy.

As the action begins, only Phoebe and Nance are working at the California flower farm that first brought them all together. Wheelchair-bound by her heart condition, Phoebe struggles to cope with her strong-willed six-year-old daughter Sally and lingering grief over Juan, dead in a car crash before his baby was born. Nance, now married to Phoebe’s brother James, has had a series of miscarriages but is again nervously pregnant. Beryl, ditched in Alaska by her mysteriously wealthy boyfriend Earl, yearns for her girlfriends but is too ashamed to phone home. Ness is in Arizona, nursing her dear friend David through the final stages of AIDS, but she drives him back to California to see the ocean one last time and moves back in with Phoebe after he dies. The storyline isn’t exactly taut as Mapson’s characters mull over menopause, lost loves, and life’s nasty turns while making fancy Easter baskets or wondering whether the new men in their lives will cause less suffering than the last. Nance and James give Sally a horse, over Phoebe’s outraged objections; Beryl has a casual affair while wondering what the hell happened to Earl; Ness meets a handsome antiques dealer who turns out to be her half-brother. The book closes with a couple of life-changing events and a lot of unanswered questions. Will Ness ever meet the mother who abandoned her? How will spoiled-rotten Sally cope with the arrival of baby cousin Savannah? Can ornery Phoebe be happy with any man, even a courtly southerner who’s also in a wheelchair? None of this seems as charming as it did in Bad Girl Creek, perhaps because the author’s prose and plot development have been sloppier in each installment.

Enough loose ends for another three novels, but only readers seriously in love with overstuffed plots and feisty middle-aged women will hope for more.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-2463-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2003

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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