Not exactly a tale of redemption, and in fact the pervasive bleakness and chilling details of the hunt flatten the...

THE HUNTER

Australian Leigh’s capable, disquieting debut is an homage of sorts to Moby Dick as an accomplished killer coolly stalks his prey—a Tasmanian tiger that’s the last of its breed—but is rattled when long-dormant emotions are stirred by a fractured family he encounters.

Arriving incognito at the edge of the Tasmanian bush to begin his hunt, the cold fish known as “M” immediately encounters a distraction from his mission. Two unrestrained children, a girl and her younger brother, are the welcoming committee in the house where he’s to stay between forays into the wilderness, their mother in a drugged stupor from mourning her scientist husband, who vanished months before in the same area where M will go. At first M has no time for the kids and tackles his assignment—to find and kill the tiger in order to retrieve genetic material and body parts for a biotech outfit—with the icy calm of a perfectionist, trapping and shooting and skinning creatures as it suits him. As time passes, however, his target remains elusive, and visits to base camp expose him further to each member of the family, with the result that he becomes more involved in their lives and aware of their needs. Called away on another mission without having bagged his cat, M returns after some weeks to finish the job, actually anticipating his reunion with the family. But he finds only an empty house and a trail of tragedy. Hopes of human intimacy, flawed though it might have been, now dashed, he resumes his cold-blooded ways in competition with park rangers who are also in search of the tiger, until the moment he has so long awaited arrives.

Not exactly a tale of redemption, and in fact the pervasive bleakness and chilling details of the hunt flatten the dimensions of the story somewhat, but within its obsessive vision there is power, raw and formidable. A writer to watch.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-56858-169-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2000

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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