A well-crafted, if not groundbreaking, tale about a gay teen in the Midwest.




A debut novel introduces a gay teenager coming-of-age in 1970s Detroit.

Jamie Goldberg’s mother takes him out of school to attend protests and single-handedly forces his district’s desegregation (which makes him something of a pariah). His father ignores him in favor of watching Detroit Tigers games on TV. As Jamie’s sexuality develops, he’s filled with an unshakable sense of guilt. He knows he should be attracted to the women in the Playboy that his brother gives him, but he can’t help but fantasize about a male classmate instead. Jamie hopes to talk to his older cousin Harold about these feelings (he has intimated that he might be the same way). But then Harold dies tragically of a heroin overdose. Jamie finds solace in Hesse, Nietzsche, and the operas of Wagner. “The music was also obscenely sensual to me,” he writes of Tannhäuser. “Ecstatic thoughts could freely float in and out of my mind, unattached to anyone or anything. The music had no gender.” After a stranger takes his virginity at age 15, Jamie realizes he has crossed a line that can’t be uncrossed. While he wishes to escape to New York and a new life, he is forced by circumstances to remain in Detroit for college. Even so, college provides him an avenue to explore all the things he’s spent his adolescence hoping for (and fearing): music, theater, love, community—and a world where, to many people, he is a pervert. Can Jamie ever overcome his guilt, silence his fears, and find happiness in a life so different from the one he was raised to expect? In his series opener, Taylor tells the story from Jamie’s perspective in a polished prose enlivened with the protagonist’s neurotic humor: “He couldn’t reach his pen so I shot out of my chair and tried to pick it up. I accidentally knocked it away. I chased after it, picked it up, and handed the pen back to him. I plopped back down in my chair, hoping he’d forget the whole thing.” Jamie is thoughtful and highly sympathetic, and readers will be happy to follow him through the formative years of his youth. Taylor succeeds in capturing various moments (however painful or awkward) and revealing their importance. The author manages to illustrate the time and place of the novel with sharply selected details, contextualizing Jamie’s development in surprising ways. But when readers consider the Proustian task Taylor has set out for himself—this 450-page book only gets Jamie through age 20, and more volumes will follow—they may begin to wonder if the topic is truly fertile enough for the scope of the project. Despite the wit and charm that the author brings to this bildungsroman, it’s difficult to say that it contains anything that hasn’t already been covered extensively in fiction (often in fewer pages). The prospect of future, similarly verbose works devoted to Jamie might not fill readers with the same enthusiasm that clearly motivates Taylor.

A well-crafted, if not groundbreaking, tale about a gay teen in the Midwest.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2018


Page Count: 462

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2018

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.


When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus run over a longtime acquaintance of hers—Barbara Baker, a woman she doesn't like very much—it's only the beginning of the shake-ups to come in her life and the lives of those she loves.

Astrid has been tootling along contentedly in the Hudson Valley town of Clapham, New York, a 68-year-old widow with three grown children. After many years of singlehood since her husband died, she's been quietly seeing Birdie Gonzalez, her hairdresser, for the past two years, and after Barbara's death she determines to tell her children about the relationship: "There was no time to waste, not in this life. There were always more school buses." Elliot, her oldest, who's in real estate, lives in Clapham with his wife, Wendy, who's Chinese American, and their twins toddlers, Aidan and Zachary, who are "such hellions that only a fool would willingly ask for more." Astrid's daughter, Porter, owns a nearby farm producing artisanal goat cheese and has just gotten pregnant through a sperm bank while having an affair with her married high school boyfriend. Nicky, the youngest Strick, is disconcertingly famous for having appeared in an era-defining movie when he was younger and now lives in Brooklyn with his French wife, Juliette, and their daughter, Cecelia, who's being shipped up to live with Astrid for a while after her friend got mixed up with a pedophile she met online. As always, Straub (Modern Lovers, 2016, etc.) draws her characters warmly, making them appealing in their self-centeredness and generosity, their insecurity and hope. The cast is realistically diverse, though in most ways it's fairly superficial; the fact that Birdie is Latina or Porter's obstetrician is African American doesn't have much impact on the story or their characters. Cecelia's new friend, August, wants to make the transition to Robin; that storyline gets more attention, with the two middle schoolers supporting each other through challenging times. The Stricks worry about work, money, sex, and gossip; Straub has a sharp eye for her characters' foibles and the details of their liberal, upper-middle-class milieu.

With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59463-469-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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