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THE DEAN'S LIST

A sequel to the delightful Rookery Blues (1995), from the popular Minnesota author. The story is once again set in the academic hinterland of Rookery State College. It's 25 years later (1994), and the focus is now on the professional and personal crises stoically endured by Leland Edwards, who at 58 still lives with his octogenarian mother ``Lolly'' (the host of a popular call-in radio show) and still remembers with more than affection his ex-wife Sally and the son they lost in childhood many years earlier. This all sounds depressing, and there's no doubt that the novel exhibits too many characters burdened by what one of them calls his ``overload of worries.'' But Hassler's trademark affectionate humor is manifest throughout, as Leland deals with neurotic students and eccentric relatives, a Machiavellian hockey coach, a dim-witted college president (who thinks the legendary Paul Bunyan is a Rookery graduate), a sexual harassment charge brought against him by a disturbed woman, and, centrally, the campus visit of a real Rookery alumnus, celebrated poet Richard Falcon—who is himself besieged by the IRS, a publisher's lawsuit, and assorted other demons. Hassler weaves these complicated materials (and others) together beautifully. After a hundred pages or so, we realize we've become acquainted with an amazing number of characters, most of whose personalities are rendered in distinctive detail, even when they're only walk-ons. Flashbacks to Leland's marriage and bereavement, and to his days as a jazz pianist with the cheerfully embattled Icejam Quintet (whose other members all eventually reappear here), are expertly blended with present action. And Hassler's creation of the poems of Richard Falcon—who's a kind of amalgam of Robert Frost and Edwin Arlington Robinson—is remarkably skillful. Enormously readable, as sentimental as one might wish it to be: another dependable charmer from one of our most likable and entertaining novelists. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 28, 1997

ISBN: 0-345-41637-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1997

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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THE RUMOR

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Hilderbrand’s latest cautionary tale exposes the toxic—and hilarious—impact of gossip on even the most sophisticated of islands.

Eddie and Grace Pancik are known for their beautiful Nantucket home and grounds, financed with the profits from Eddie’s thriving real estate company (thriving before the crash of 2008, that is). Grace raises pedigreed hens and, with the help of hunky landscape architect Benton Coe, has achieved a lush paradise of fowl-friendly foliage. The Panciks’ teenage girls, Allegra and Hope, suffer invidious comparisons of their looks and sex appeal, although they're identical twins. The Panciks’ friends the Llewellyns (Madeline, a blocked novelist, and her airline-pilot husband, Trevor) invested $50,000, the lion’s share of Madeline’s last advance, in Eddie’s latest development. But Madeline, hard-pressed to come up with catalog copy, much less a new novel, is living in increasingly straightened circumstances, at least by Nantucket standards: she can only afford $2,000 per month on the apartment she rents in desperate hope that “a room of her own” will prime the creative pump. Construction on Eddie’s spec houses has stalled, thanks to the aforementioned crash. Grace, who has been nursing a crush on Benton for some time, gives in and a torrid affair ensues, which she ill-advisedly confides to Madeline after too many glasses of Screaming Eagle. With her agent and publisher dropping dire hints about clawing back her advance and Eddie “temporarily” unable to return the 50K, what’s a writer to do but to appropriate Grace’s adultery as fictional fodder? When Eddie is seen entering her apartment (to ask why she rented from a rival realtor), rumors spread about him and Madeline, and after the rival realtor sneaks a look at Madeline’s rough draft (which New York is hotly anticipating as “the Playboy Channel meets HGTV”), the island threatens to implode with prurient snark. No one is spared, not even Hilderbrand herself, “that other Nantucket novelist,” nor this magazine, “the notoriously cranky Kirkus.”

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-33452-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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