Despite its flaws, Cronin’s novel ultimately avoids the genre’s worst sin—heavy-handedness.

ME AGAIN

In Cronin’s novel, a man emerges from a coma six years after a massive stroke only to find he’s changed as much as the world has.

Jonathan Hooper’s doctors and family call his sudden recovery a miracle, but Jonathan himself isn’t so sure. After six years spent in a coma, he has a long road to actual recovery, and even then it’s unlikely that he’ll ever remember who he used to be. His sole source of comfort is the beautiful Rebecca Chase, a fellow stroke victim who has undergone a dramatic personality shift and, like Jonathan, is confronted with the fact that she may never be the person she once was. But the more Jonathan discovers about his past as an emotionally distant, dishonest businessman, the more he wonders if his amnesia may actually be a blessing. Cronin’s debut is an engaging read, utilizing an affable tone and ample humor to temper subject matter that could easily fall into melodrama. The novel shines when navigating the complex interpersonal relationships Jonathan has been thrown back into, as he gets to know not just the family he’s unable to remember, but also the man he used to be. The conflict in gathering this information comes from one of the most relatable, frustrating aspects of human interaction—the inclination to avoid emotional harm and confrontation at all costs. Cronin displays an impressive understanding of conversational subtext, and, at its best, the novel’s dialogue works on many levels at once without coming across as obtuse. This isn’t always consistent, though, with a lot of repetition (particularly some of the oft-repeated jokes) and transparent exposition making some exchanges feel less refined. Everything ties up a little too neatly at the end, and Jonathan never really faces any repercussions for his pre-coma sins, but it’s the little triumphs along way—Jonathan’s rebirth and personal healing—that feel like the novel’s true resolution.

Despite its flaws, Cronin’s novel ultimately avoids the genre’s worst sin—heavy-handedness.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2011

ISBN: 978-1432825034

Page Count: 321

Publisher: Five Star

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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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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