An engaging exploration of love and faith anchored by dynamic lead characters and briskly paced storylines.

Actual Love


A respected minister and Old Testament scholar examines his troubled marriage and his faith while investigating a potentially groundbreaking discovery in Logan’s (Chihuahua, 2016, etc.) latest novel.

The peace and quiet of a routine flight from Tel Aviv to Luton, England, is shattered by a man calling out “Kill her!” The flight crew locates the source of the disturbance, a minister named Dave Jackson. Believing his outburst was the result of something he ate, he apologizes to the crew. Dave’s life and career are in crisis. His teaching career is stalled, and his relationship with his wife, Colette, is faltering. After catching her in an adulterous embrace with a visiting lecturer, Dave accepted an offer to travel to Israel to translate a recently discovered Dead Sea Scroll. The scroll tells the story of Mary, a widow and mother of five who’s bravely facing the siege of Masada. Mary’s record comprises daily life in Masada; she also recounts the love story of Hosea, told through the point of view of his sister. As Dave begins his journey home, he reflects on his problematic childhood, his disintegrating marriage, and his faith, framing his struggles in the context of the scroll and its message. Logan’s sprawling narrative deftly juggles multiple plotlines and points of view without losing sight of the central story. The heart of the novel is Dave’s return to England from Israel, a trip filled with reading, reflection, and decisions on how to proceed with his marriage and career. Extended flashbacks reveal his difficult upbringing in Brooklyn and the meaning and direction religion brought to his life. Interwoven with his youthful memories is the poignant story of his love affair with Colette, the tragedies that affected their marriage, and the illicit relationship that drove a wedge between them. The dual narratives of Mary and Hosea are similarly well-developed. Each could stand alone as a separate tale, but together they help provide insight into Dave’s scholarship and the trials he faces.

An engaging exploration of love and faith anchored by dynamic lead characters and briskly paced storylines.

Pub Date: July 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4834-5415-3

Page Count: 380

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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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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Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s...


 The traumatic homecoming of a wounded warrior.

The daughter of alcoholics who left her orphaned at 17, Jolene “Jo” Zarkades found her first stable family in the military: She’s served over two decades, first in the army, later with the National Guard. A helicopter pilot stationed near Seattle, Jo copes as competently at home, raising two daughters, Betsy and Lulu, while trying to dismiss her husband Michael’s increasing emotional distance. Jo’s mettle is sorely tested when Michael informs her flatly that he no longer loves her. Four-year-old Lulu clamors for attention while preteen Betsy, mean-girl-in-training, dismisses as dweeby her former best friend, Seth, son of Jo’s confidante and fellow pilot, Tami. Amid these challenges comes the ultimate one: Jo and Tami are deployed to Iraq. Michael, with the help of his mother, has to take over the household duties, and he rapidly learns that parenting is much harder than his wife made it look. As Michael prepares to defend a PTSD-afflicted veteran charged with Murder I for killing his wife during a dissociative blackout, he begins to understand what Jolene is facing and to revisit his true feelings for her. When her helicopter is shot down under insurgent fire, Jo rescues Tami from the wreck, but a young crewman is killed. Tami remains in a coma and Jo, whose leg has been amputated, returns home to a difficult rehabilitation on several fronts. Her nightmares in which she relives the crash and other horrors she witnessed, and her pain, have turned Jo into a person her daughters now fear (which in the case of bratty Betsy may not be such a bad thing). Jo can't forgive Michael for his rash words. Worse, she is beginning to remind Michael more and more of his homicide client. Characterization can be cursory: Michael’s earlier callousness, left largely unexplained, undercuts the pathos of his later change of heart. 

Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s aftermath.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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