by Ken Levine ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 15, 2016
A heartfelt family tale, hampered by its organizational style.
A long-suffering woman confronts more turmoil after her boyfriend kidnaps her daughter.
At the beginning of Levine’s (North of Nowhere, 2014, etc.) nonlinear novel, Marcy Travers is knocked unconscious and then wakes up in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor. Her boyfriend, Boyd, has struck her and taken her daughter, Katie, and is apparently on the run. She first met Boyd at work, where he was the janitor. At almost 7 feet tall, he came across as a gentle giant, and had become something of a stepfather to Katie. As the search for Boyd and Katie begins, the story goes back to a variety of time periods and introduces a number of different characters, including Marcy’s sister, Tanya; their mother, Jo; their foster mother, Mrs. Edmonds; and Boyd’s mother, Grace. Marcy had a tough childhood. Her mother raised her in a neighborhood of bars and liquor stores, and Marcy watched as Jo became a penniless alcoholic who at one point resorts to prostitution. Baby Tanya is abandoned at a church and eventually both she and Marcy end up in the home of Mrs. Edmonds, a stoic but somewhat stable foster mother. Separately, young Boyd is not treated well by many people; he faces bullies at school and feels very insecure about his height. In the present, Marcy tries to enlist the help of Grace in the search for Boyd and Katie while also battling her own demons. Marcy cannot forgive her mother for the past, and Jo and she wrestle with forgiveness as the hunt for Katie grows dire. Levine’s characters live in a hardscrabble universe and he does an admirable job of portraying their turbulent lives in environments that offer little compassion. Characters such as Mrs. Edmonds, who found her calling as a foster mother, or Boyd, wracked with loneliness and self-doubt, are certainly well developed. Time and place are more difficult to pin down. The novel’s small Southern town seems a bit more like a struggling Rust Belt city. Because the book jumps around often, and with no dates given, it’s unknown at the beginning of each chapter what year it is or how old the characters are, and that distraction can overwhelm a reader.A heartfelt family tale, hampered by its organizational style.
Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016
Page Count: 244
Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2017
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Hanya Yanagihara ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 10, 2015
The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2015
National Book Award Finalist
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
Page Count: 720
Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015
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More About This Book
by J.D. Salinger ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 15, 1951
A strict report, worthy of sympathy.
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
Page Count: -
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951
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