by Joan Chase ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 1, 1991
Chase's first collection displays the same subtlety and grace that distinguish her lyrical novels (During the Reign of the Queen of Persia, 1983; The Evening Wolves, 1989) from most other fiction about domestic life. There's nothing formulaic or predictable about these 11 nuanced tales about girls growing into their sexuality, women troubled by bad marriages, and men possessed by dreams of a better life. The young narrator of ``Aunt Josie'' learns about masculine desire and feminine wile by watching her beautiful and entrancing aunt, who lives at a state farm for boys where her husband is the athletic director and her niece visits for the summer. In ``J.C. Peach,'' an adolescent girl, infatuated with a more self-possessed classmate, shares with her the bond of their first periods. Slightly older, the 16-year-old narrator of ``Elderberries and Souls'' has a wild crush on her stepuncle until his dark moodiness sends her running back to her loyal beau, a less complex fellow her own age. In ``The Harrier,'' a married woman ``in a mist of yearning'' lusts for a local artist/mechanic, a younger man much closer to nature and more at peace with himself than her insensitive husband. Divorced women overcome self-pity and guilt in encounters with people worse off than they in ``Crowing'' and ``Ghost Dance.'' In ``Black Ice,'' a wife separated from her husband reviews on the phone their history of car accidents after he's survived a dramatic one alone. Chase's men are often driven by a fear of failure and a vision of a simpler life: the grandfather/defense-analyst in ``The Whole of the World'' must prove he's a better woodsman than his sons-in-law; the manic husband in ``An Energy Crisis'' changes his grand scheme with each job transfer; and the prep-school teacher in ``Jack Pine Savage,'' having abandoned his Ph.D. for the exigencies of a family, dreams of life as a French trapper in Canada. The title story, about life in a lower-middle-class housing development, is typical of Chase's superior storytelling skills—it's so multidimensional it resists paraphrase. Once again, Chase brings extraordinary elegance and imagination to everyday realism.
Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1991
Page Count: 226
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1991
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by Hanya Yanagihara ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 10, 2015
The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.
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National Book Award Finalist
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
Page Count: 720
Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015
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by Harper Lee ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 11, 1960
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
Page Count: 323
Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960
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