Well-wrought female empowerment tale with a dramatic twist ending.

HOME FIRES

In this women’s fiction/thriller novel, Myra Benning contends with a cheating husband who may also have sexually abused their teen daughter.

Myra’s professor husband, Derek, has just confirmed her suspicions that he’s been having affairs with his students. In this tense environment, just after son Peter leaves for college, Myra wakes up to her other child Susan’s screams of “Get him off!” Derek says he was comforting the 14-year-old during her nightmare, yet he also oddly remarks how the girl looked “so beautiful, laying there in the moonlight.” Myra asks Derek to leave and brings in the police and a therapist. The latter concludes that Susan is exhibiting characteristics of having been sexually abused, even if there’s no evidence of penetration. Derek then disappears, and the novel jumps 12 years. Susan, now married to a man met in group therapy, has a new baby. Myra has turned her animal illustrations into a successful cartooning career. Then Susan thinks she’s spotted Derek’s car, and Myra senses her house was broken into. Peter, who never believed his father was an abuser, tells Myra that Derek created a new life in a nearby California town. Derek, who still protests his innocence, tells Myra that he retrieved his birth certificate from her house to deal with his family’s legal matters. Informed that Derek’s stoic, also cheated-upon mother, Eleanor, is dying, Myra, now in a relationship with policeman Randy Larson, agrees to a family reunion at Derek’s family home, where Susan recovers a more complete memory of her abuse, prompting a series of tragic yet revelatory events to unfold. Kirscht (The Inheritors, 2012, etc.), a retired university lecturer, brings grace and flair to this third effort. She quickly establishes Myra, a Minnesota native who has always been a bit insecure in the rather enigmatic Derek’s world, as a sympathetic heroine who must now face up to what she may have been enabling in her marriage. Kirscht also plants just enough seeds in her smooth-flowing narrative so that its rather surprising finale doesn’t seem too far out in left field.

Well-wrought female empowerment tale with a dramatic twist ending.

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-1614690436

Page Count: 264

Publisher: New Libri Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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