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150 POUNDS

Two 20-something bloggers consider American women’s love/hate relationship with food in this amusing second novel from Rockland.

The story opens on the set of Oprah as Alexis (author of the Skinny Chick blog) and Shoshana (of Fat and Fabulous fame) are about to weigh in on weight. Shoshana’s blog advocates that a healthy self-esteem and healthy diet are all women need to feel good about themselves, no matter the dress size. She’s over 200 pounds, and her millions of followers, called Fatties, like her just the way she is. Alexis, barely 100 pounds, writes about America’s alarming obesity epidemic and dictates everyone should count their calories and burn their buns. After the explosive TV appearance, the two part ways and don’t meet again until a year later at the end of the novel. In the meantime, both Shoshana and Alexis come to realize that their fanaticism stems from…issues. Alexis, proud of her tart bitchiness, lives with her best friend Billy. While Billy is flamboyant and fun, Alexis lives a life controlled by weight—she weighs her food, herself, the value of others. She exercises at the crack of dawn to keep her whippet-like figure, but all that flies out the window when she meets Noah, a gorgeous, funny chef. Noah reminds her of her dead brother, and Alexis allows herself to be happy again. Less fragile than Alexis, Shoshana’s life changes when she inherits an old farmhouse and orchard. She befriends her eccentric Irish neighbor and begins restoring the property, with an eye to a new business venture. With all that manual labor, Shoshana begins to drop the pounds while pregnant Alexis begins to put them on, and the two meet in the middle. Occasionally the language lacks polish (“Shoshana had beautiful, stunning hair”) but Rockland’s study of the two women is fresh and enjoyable. Skinny chicks, chubby gals and all in between will connect to this perennially favorite female subject: how much a body should weigh.

 

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-57601-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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A LITTLE LIFE

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

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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FIREFLY LANE

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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