For the most part, though, a tonic account of how one woman discovers her truest self in the face of supreme disaster.

THE FIRST TIME

Fielding forgoes the criminal emphasis of her recent soccer-mom thrillers (Missing Pieces, 1997, etc.) to focus on the greatest noncriminal peril of all: an early death sentence.

It hasn't all been roses for Mattie Hart. She's never felt close to her mother or the husband who married her because she was pregnant. Now that Jake Hart is making a name in Chicago law circles, the problems continue. He can't stop chasing skirts, and his daughter Kim wants even less to do with him than most 15-year-olds. It all seems to come to a head when Jake announces that he's moving in with his latest lover, novelist Honey Novak. But Jake's desertion is only a warm-up for a far more momentous ordeal: the news that Mattie's been falling down, laughing uncontrollably, and feeling her foot go to sleep recently because she's in the early stages of ALS, the disease that struck down Lou Gehrig in his prime. What can Mattie do with the year (or, if she's lucky, two or three) she has left? Fielding acutely traces her early alternation of impulsive self-indulgence (going on a shopping spree, buying a sports car she soon won't be able to drive, arranging a fling of her own) and dull despair (the most routine tasks take longer, the simplest decisions become monstrously complicated). Along with the annoyingly banal problems she'd have to cope with even if she weren't dying, Mattie now feels a new urgency in her attempts to understand her estranged husband, whose childhood had been even more traumatic than hers. Predictably but magically, the challenge of Mattie's physical degeneration rekindles her love of life and laughter and her errant spouse. It's only in the final stages of the illness, when Mattie's state seems to require some deeper insight, that Fielding comes up short.

For the most part, though, a tonic account of how one woman discovers her truest self in the face of supreme disaster.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7434-0705-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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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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With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.

LOVE AND OTHER WORDS

Eleven years ago, he broke her heart. But he doesn’t know why she never forgave him.

Toggling between past and present, two love stories unfold simultaneously. In the first, Macy Sorensen meets and falls in love with the boy next door, Elliot Petropoulos, in the closet of her dad’s vacation home, where they hide out to discuss their favorite books. In the second, Macy is working as a doctor and engaged to a single father, and she hasn’t spoken to Elliot since their breakup. But a chance encounter forces her to confront the truth: what happened to make Macy stop speaking to Elliot? Ultimately, they’re separated not by time or physical remoteness but by emotional distance—Elliot and Macy always kept their relationship casual because they went to different schools. And as a teen, Macy has more to worry about than which girl Elliot is taking to the prom. After losing her mother at a young age, Macy is navigating her teenage years without a female role model, relying on the time-stamped notes her mother left in her father’s care for guidance. In the present day, Macy’s father is dead as well. She throws herself into her work and rarely comes up for air, not even to plan her upcoming wedding. Since Macy is still living with her fiance while grappling with her feelings for Elliot, the flashbacks offer steamy moments, tender revelations, and sweetly awkward confessions while Macy makes peace with her past and decides her future.

With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2801-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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