A SON OF THE CIRCUS

Irving (A Prayer for Owen Meany, 1989, etc.) sets his new book about outcasts and freaks in India, but the story is weighed down by the same stale bag of tricks he has been trotting out since Garp, only now they are more tedious than ever. Part murder mystery, part travelogue, part meditation on faith, sexual personae, and prejudice, the story follows Dr. Daruwalla, an orthopedic surgeon who lives in Toronto, back to India, where he was born. In Bombay, he tries to find a genetic marker for achondroplastic dwarfism — the condition that afflicts the circus dwarves he loves. Daruwalla is also a secret screenwriter for the Hindi cinema and has created the enormously popular and universally loathed Inspector Dahr — a character he invented for a man whom he had rescued as a child and who is like a son to him. And, in a typical Hindi film twist, the real Inspector Dahr has an identical twin who was separated at birth and has grown up in Canada. This twin also travels to Bombay, as a priest in training, unaware of his twin, the extreme hatred for his look-alike, or the fact that the current film seems to have inspired a series of murders and that he or his brother might be the next victim. Subplots involving the fates of orphans, prostitutes, homosexuals, people with the HIV virus, and children sold into bondage are all marched out like speakers at a mulch convention. The descriptions of the Indian circuses and the lives of the performers are the most interesting parts of the book, but they are buried under an avalanche of blather. The idea of disassociation, that "immigrants are immigrants all their lives," is ham-fistedly pounded into the reader without any of the humor or grace of Garp or even Cider House Rules. Irving's literary hero, Dickens, was paid by the word and was serialized in magazines, so he had a need to pad. Irving has no such excuse.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 1994

ISBN: 0-679-43496-8

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1994

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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