High moral tone, low narrative appeal.


Corruption, Southern style: Good-old-boy power brokers are challenged by an idealistic newspaper publisher in this lumbering debut. 

Buck Ravenel learned how the world works at his exclusive prep school. As a squeaky-clean prefect he had reported his roomie to the headmaster for an infraction. The headmaster finessed matters, pressuring the roomie’s father for a donation. Everybody won; favors trumped rules; the titular Code had been observed. Now, in 1995, Buck is a powerful state senator in South Carolina, and his son Tripp is director of the state’s environmental agency. When a phosphate company applies for a permit to strip-mine near Georgetown, on the coast, and his agency’s in-house report is negative, Tripp has it deep-sixed. Like father, like son. There will be a sweet business deal if the permit is approved; Buck and his partners will profit. Just one problem: A young black paralegal has obtained the original report and passed it to the local paper, on condition his identity is protected. The paper runs the story. Buck sues, seeking millions in damages. It’s time for Wade McNabb, the crusading publisher, to enlist the help of Kate Stewart, an equally idealistic lawyer. Let battle commence! Unfortunately, it doesn’t. First we must plow through Wade and Kate’s back stories. Wade’s father had been a hero, standing up for black folks, losing the paper after an advertisers’ boycott, and eventually killing himself. Kate’s dad had been a successful tobacco buyer who became consumed with guilt once the lung cancer connection became clear. So the high-minded dead loom large over a couple destined for each other, though not quite yet. They spend a day on a remote beach, but he’s the perfect gentleman and she’s the perfect lady, making for a perfect snooze. The judge in the long-delayed courtroom scenes is a good old hunting buddy of Buck, so the fix is in. Will right over might prevail? 

High moral tone, low narrative appeal. 

Pub Date: May 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-9841073-5-3

Page Count: 374

Publisher: Joggling Board Press

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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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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