Law Prof

A lighthearted tale that’s more of a law primer than a courtroom drama.
Hegland (Introduction to the Study and Practice of Law in a Nutshell, 2014, etc.), a professor emeritus of law at the University of Arizona, has penned numerous academic books about the law, but this is his first effort at fiction. Hewing closely to his area of expertise, he’s made the protagonist a law professor as well, and his jocular narrative dwells less on the human element than on complex legal nuances. The unnamed protagonist, variously referred to as “Dad,” “Pops” and even “Dearie,” is the proud father of two daughters: Gina, a cop, and Jamie, a defense lawyer. Jamie picks up a new case outside her wheelhouse—a wrongful death suit—and solicits her father’s help in litigating it. The case itself is fraught with difficulties: A 13 year-old girl’s mother is killed by a defective furnace, and the daughter is later raped while under the care of Child Protective Services. Can she sue CPS for exposing her to sexual assault? Is the manufacturer of the furnace legally liable for her mother’s death? Can they hold the appliance store that sold her the furnace accountable? The narrator considers these and many other legal and philosophical questions, such as whether cops can lie to suspects in order to extract confessions from them. (At one point, the book even asks if Pringles count as potato chips under the law.) Hegland’s tone is often wry and ironic, more self-deprecating than didactic: “We take a job, Orwell wrote, put on a professional mask, and soon our face grows to fit it. He should have added, and probably did, maybe it was implicit, that we should ask ourselves if we like that face.” That said, the prose’s glibness sometimes conflicts with the darkness of the primary case. However, the novel manages to be consistently edifying and entertaining overall.

A crisp, intellectually enlightening legal novel.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1492962694

Page Count: 182

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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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.


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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