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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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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