A creatively constructed narrative that doesn’t come together in a fully satisfying way.


Siwicki’s follow-up to his 2009 novel Expression explores themes of time, memory, perception, and consciousness through a story of an ordinary man’s brush with death.

Sam Young leads a simple, straightforward life in his small hometown. After he graduates, he opens a photography studio, and earns an honest living as a community photographer. Even his love life follows a narrow path, as he lives with his first love, Esther, a pretty nurse at the local hospital. Although the couple sometimes dream of moving to a city to further Sam’s photography career or Esther’s modeling aspirations, they’re relatively complacent in their provincial life. Siwicki’s introductory prose is clear and descriptive. However, the main characters lack dimension, and readers may find it a challenge to become invested in their story. Sam’s ordinary life is shaken up, though, when a mysterious man from a prestigious magazine commissions him to photograph the estate of a famed, missing architect. Sam embarks on a long, overnight drive to the site. Alone in the car, he muses about the transitory nature of memories and life. These interludes read like a surrealist film monologue: “Is everything just a solitary moment? Is time eventually used up, then gone forever? Where does time come from, and where does it go?” As Sam drives along the highway, Siwicki explores the four possible states of consciousness that give the novel its title, and the consequences of each. The premise is intriguing, and it would probably translate well as a film. However, its execution here is confusing. During the driving segments, for example, Siwicki refers to Sam simply as “the driver,” and readers may initially think that he’s a different character. It’s also difficult to decipher which events transpire in reality and which don’t; however, that may be the author’s point. Sam’s camera also seems to play a sort of magical role, but this idea isn’t fully realized.

A creatively constructed narrative that doesn’t come together in a fully satisfying way.

Pub Date: June 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-1480288355

Page Count: 234

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2015

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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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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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