A riveting, albeit sugar-coated, account punctuated with ingenuity, family feuds, tragedy, and spellbinding success.



In this intriguing novel based on the life of Ernest Gallo, Richardson tracks the rise of the billionaire Californian winemaker.

When Ernest Gallo was young, his Aunt Tillie gave him a tarot card reading which predicted that he would become “a very successful businessman…[in] the oil business…or the wine business.” The young Ernest could not possibly perceive the alarming accuracy of his aunt’s prediction or the arduous journey ahead of him. One of three brothers, Ernest was born in 1909 in Jackson, California, into a humble Italian immigrant family. In the early 1920s, his parents settled in Modesto, purchasing arable land where they would plant and cultivate a vineyard and sell their grapes. Ernest found himself at constant loggerheads with his father, a deeply stubborn man, whose violent temper would later have tragic consequences. The novel charts the evolution of Ernest’s business brain, from his wily negotiations with unsavory market traders to becoming one of the world’s biggest wine producers. Richardson animates the Gallo’s ascendance with realistic, well-paced dialogue as in this warning from a neighbor: “A winery? Now? Boys, it’s the Dirty Thirties. You’ll end up worse than yer old man. Take my advice: Don’t do it. Stick to what you know.” Richardson portrays Gallo as an avuncular, approachable businessman, a stark contrast to “the 5-foot-4-inch terror of his industry,” as described by Forbes. She also glosses over his unpleasant standoff with the United Farmworkers Union in the 1970s, which gained him the reputation of being a bully. Richardson’s novel is part of The Mentoris Project, a series of books that aims to promote the successes of great Italians and Italian-Americans. This, to a degree, explains the author’s propensity to overlook Gallo’s less admirable characteristics. Nevertheless, the novel remains a charming, tenderly written tribute to Gallo and his remarkable achievements, which will certainly be of great interest to wine buffs, particularly those keen to discover more about the history of the American industry.

A riveting, albeit sugar-coated, account punctuated with ingenuity, family feuds, tragedy, and spellbinding success.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-947431-01-0

Page Count: 284

Publisher: Barbera Foundation, Inc.

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • National Book Award Finalist


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

Did you like this book?

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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

Did you like this book?