First-time novelist Baker makes it to the playoffs with this neo-mythic entry in a baseball subgenre pioneered by Bernard Malamud (The Natural) and advanced by George Plimpton (The Curious Case of Sidd Finch): the story of the rookie from nowhere who blossoms into the greatest player in the history of the game. This time out, the Ruthian giant is one John Barr, a tall, taciturn stranger with ``drowned man's eyes'' who hitchhikes to Hell's Gate, Virginia—home of a New York Mets minor-league franchise—muttering only that ``I came to play.'' So he does, like a dervish in spikes, and takes the sport by storm. Baker unfolds Barr's story through a patchwork of first-person voices, most of them just this side of the nuthouse. There's Rapid Rickey Falls, (``The Old Swizzlehead''), a philandering black slugger who becomes Barr's main ally; Ellsworth Pippin, the patronizing, parsimonious owner of the Mets; Ol' Cal Rigby, a Casey Stengelish manager who carries his false eyes in a box; Stillwater Norman, the dumbest man alive, who dies from choking on a clam; and their peers, the team-as-human-zoo, flashing spikes and bedding groupies with adolescent glee. Sparked by Barr, the crew wins seven pennants and five World Series, the key games recounted by Old Swizzlehead and other voices with high-five thrills. None of these victories, however, teases so much as a smile from the stolid, enigmatic Barr. Herein lies a mystery: What engine drives this strange superstar who avoids girls, disdains money, stays locked within himself? Miniskirted Ellie Jay, ``The Queen of Sportswriters,'' probes without avail. The reader learns the secret, however, in the book's only gaffe—a series of somber, overripe Freudian flashbacks that situate Barr's icy talent in his violence-strewn childhood. Barring the Freudian glop, baseball as it's meant to be.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 1993

ISBN: 0-517-59088-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1992

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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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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.


From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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