A poignant, elegant story about loss and the enduring power of love.

A KITE AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

In Grant’s (Pranked, 2015, etc.) novel, a boy makes a wonderful new friend who’s terminally ill.

The unnamed narrator of this book looks back 70 years on one special day in his childhood, “Perhaps my best day.” On a holiday visit to the seashore, the young, lonely narrator feels he can’t connect with the other vacationers’ loud, confident kids, and his parents are busy with work and a new baby. But then he meets Ilio, a boy who’s two or three years older than he is. He has a thoughtful, fey quality that marks him as different from most children; it turns out that he’s dying of an incurable illness, and his last wish is “to stand at the edge of the world,” on the seashore. The boys become instant friends and spend a perfect day building a kite. This requires many steps, but Ilio is resourceful, and they’re proud of their accomplishment. As they joyfully fly the finished kite, the narrator wonders “Was the kite me? And what about Ilio?...Were he and I connected forever? And if that were true, wasn’t everyone connected to everyone else, over and over, forever and always?” The narrator, struggling with the mystery of suffering, is again reminded of connectedness when Ilio, close to death, says that “Everyone suffers. Just not at the same time.” Grant makes her story seem timeless, like a parable, and this feeling is underscored by the narrator’s namelessness. The book asks some big questions about life, death, and memory and sticks with the child’s point of view even when investigating complicated subjects. The multilayered characterization is handled well; for example, the narrator begins the book feeling oppressed by critical yet distant adults, who seem like a different species to him, but by the end, he feels real empathy for Ilio’s father. Another kind of character development occurs when the narrator tries to distract Ilio by telling a tale, showing the beginnings of his writerly talent as he discovers the challenges of composition (“How was it that anyone ever made up a good story?”) and finds ways to resolve them.

A poignant, elegant story about loss and the enduring power of love.

Pub Date: April 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73308-060-6

Page Count: 155

Publisher: Yearning Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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