An immersive tussle between belief and uncertainty.

SPELLBOUND

From the Pagan Light series , Vol. 2

A teenage girl faces doubts about love and fear about the origins of her psychic abilities in the second paranormal fantasy in Keltner’s (Possessed, 2019, etc.) Pagan Light series.

It has been four months since 18-year-old Jackie Turov learned to embrace her psychic gift—the touch that enables her to “read” the past and to heal people. It has also been four months since she fell for David, a 24-year-old seminarian. Jackie and David are in love, but in two months’ time David will enter the priesthood (apparently Russian Orthodox), either as a married man or forever to remain celibate. Jackie is sure of her feelings but worries that David’s religious beliefs won’t allow him to accept her powers. This worry only grows when an old woman at church accuses Jackie and Babu, her great-grandmother, of being witches, and it grows still further when the woman starts choking to death and David won’t let Jackie help her. Jackie glimpses terrible events in the woman’s past. She senses that Babu was involved somehow and, despite the love she feels for her great-grandmother, can’t help wondering if she herself has inherited a spark of evil. Babu is evasive on the matter. Jackie needs to know. So when David asks her to travel with him to Russia—where his family lives in a small village near where Babu grew up—she agrees. David asks Jackie to marry him, but Jackie finds herself caught between Christian and pagan beliefs, between faith and magic. Will she and David live happily ever after, or are they fated for something much darker? Keltner narrates in the third person, past tense, mostly from Jackie’s perspective but occasionally from that of her best friend, Jason. The story is simply told yet brought to life with well-targeted descriptive passages, particularly with regard to the Russian characters and rural Russian setting. (The dialogue features quite a lot of untranslated Russian, but this adds to the atmosphere and is contextualized to give the gist.) Jackie herself comes across as less of an individual than in the first book in the series—less of an outcast, more a naïve, love-struck teen—but this regression turns out to be plot-driven; as tension builds and the story ramps up, Jackie at heart remains a protagonist that young readers will invest in.

An immersive tussle between belief and uncertainty.

Pub Date: July 28, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-07-543919-3

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2020

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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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