BRAZIL

The indefatigable Updike only occasionally succeeds here. Tristo, a black teenager from the favela, encounters Isabel, a rich and sheltered young daughter of the elite, one afternoon on Rio's Copacabana beach—and when Isabel takes him home and gives her maidenhead to him, both kids discover a love union like that of their storied counterparts, Romeo and Juliet. With Tristo, Isabel flees Rio, ahead of her father's armed posse, and they make it as far as So Paulo. There, Isabel is wrenched away—but this is only the first of a number of forced (and false) partings, around which, together, Isabel and Tristo will turn to gold-mining, prostitution, living among jungle Indians, and finally re-civilization. Isabel will even resort to the help of magic to have Tristo returned to her, at the price of a shaman-induced change in respective skin-colors for them both—Updike's woolliest turn in a story fanciful with twists and turns, touristy aperáus, and sexual philosophy. Like a slab of abused plywood, the novel is forever coming apart into its separate laminates. Updike at times (especially when he's trying to write suspenseful scenes, or violent ones) seems to be using the exotic foreignness of his setting as an excuse for over-vividness, somewhat like Karl May's old German romances of the American Indian. Elsewhere, more cunningly, he seems to be subverting some of Latin-American magic realism's more bloated clichÇs by overturning them into a kind of realistic-magic fiction. But, again, as in the African-based The Coup, he seems to think he needs another continent to try to tell the story of a wholly other—and maybe to tell a story, period. The Updikean intelligence and draughtsmanship and sex-awe constantly obtrude, weakening the narrative big picture, studding the book with perceptions and alertness galore but never with quite the air of exotic metaphysical enchantment the novelist seems to seek. Saul Bellow's finest book, Henderson the Rain King, is still unchallenged as the only American novel of our era to do that.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 1994

ISBN: 0-679-43071-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1993

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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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