A spellbinding collection that explodes every anodyne myth about Nantucket while fostering some new ones.

ISLAND FOG

Two centuries of strange on Nantucket Island.

In Vanderslice’s new collection, the eponymous fog is a metaphor for moral ambiguity. “Guilty Look” provides an early (set in 1795) example of bankers exploiting the justice system for personal gain. In “King Philip’s War” (1823), the uneasy friendship of two boys, white and Indian, echoes the détente between their respective populations. Orpha, who has heard nothing of her whaler husband, Reuben, for more than three years, happily gives up on him in “On Cherry Street” (1837). In “Taste” (1846), Gideon, a once-promising ship’s captain, has worked as a night watchman for almost three decades, since his ship was wrecked by a sperm whale. In weeks adrift on a small boat, Gideon resorted to cannibalism, a “taste” which has not left him since. On Vanderslice’s Nantucket, modernity does nothing to mediate the macabre, menacing and mysterious. In “How Long Will You Tarry?” (1920), a black schoolteacher descended from the island’s African settlers encounters an eerie reminder of incipient racial prejudice on her walk home. A plumber is forced to face the truth about the only woman who loved him in “Morning Meal” (1999). The increasingly upscale Nantucket of the 2000s harbors even more danger. In “Beaten,” a vacationer’s daily run becomes a nightmare as a stranger dogs his steps like a Nike-clad fury. A gay man suddenly summoned off island by a fickle Bostonian lover weighs his options while a nightly, ghostly presence weighs down his chest in “Haunted.” The title of “Newfoundland” suggests the longed-for escape of a successful auto dealer whose social-climbing wife is bankrupting him. Hosanna, a Jamaican single mother who's trying to survive with her two children by running a snack shop, finds her precarious security further undermined by the woman she trusted to manage the slacker summer help in “Managing Business.” In the supremely unsettling title story, Doug, another slacker, finds himself drawn into a Faustian bargain with a uniquely New England twist.

A spellbinding collection that explodes every anodyne myth about Nantucket while fostering some new ones.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-935084-41-9

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Lavender Ink

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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