A captivating and complicated coming-of-age tale for fans of surprising heroines.

SHELBY'S WAY . . . MAYBE

LISTEN TO YOUR HEART AND FIND YOUR WAY

A novel follows a young mother who is forced to grow up when her husband abruptly abandons her.

Young, beautiful, and sheltered Shelby Carpenter is married to a successful Hollywood stuntman. The book opens as Shelby and her husband, Boyd, mingle with other Tinseltown hotshots at a lavish party in Los Angeles. An attractive and assertive divorcée offers to take Boyd on a tour of the grounds, whereupon he excuses himself from the company of his wife, never to be seen again. Shelby cannot believe that she has been left so suddenly and brazenly by her husband of more than half a decade, but after three long days with no word from Boyd, she begins to accept the truth. She is soon informed by mutual acquaintances that Boyd went to Kenya with his new girlfriend, and before she knows it, she has received divorce papers from his attorney. With no job and very little life experience, Shelby is left to fend for herself and her 8-year-old daughter, Pamela, on her own. Motivated by the responsibility she feels for her daughter, Shelby finds positions as a cocktail waitress and an administrative assistant in a corporate office. As she learns to stand on her own, Shelby meets three men who appeal to different aspects of her personality. Each of the three provides Shelby with emotional support during her most turbulent times as well as varying levels of distraction and sexual fulfillment. Formerly writing under the name MK Landstein, Mitchell (Wasted…Maybe, 2013, etc.) delivers a complex heroine. As the appealing story progresses, Shelby’s feelings for each of the three suitors evolve, along with her sentiments about herself. Throughout the novel, the author provides insightful and compassionate details about the difficulties of single motherhood (“All along she knew she would not allow anything to interfere with Pamela’s world, her self-image and security. Shelby knew she would have to climb out of this hole step by step”). Mitchell also shows how Shelby’s lovely face and friendly demeanor can often function as more of a curse than a blessing. There are many intricate subplots that weave their ways throughout the larger story, rounding out the richness of the narrative. 

A captivating and complicated coming-of-age tale for fans of surprising heroines. 

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4575-4413-2

Page Count: 214

Publisher: Dog Ear

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2016

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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