Not just militarists will react strongly to the provocative questions raised here about honor, duty and personal...

THE LAST BLUE MILE

Ponders, whose background as a Desert Storm combat veteran informed her first novel (The Art of Uncontrolled Flight, 2005), turns her attention to the Air Force Academy in this timely, realistic fiction about sexual and religious politics within the institution.

Brigadier General John Waller has been pulled from flying duty to straighten up the Academy after a rape scandal, but expectations that his new position as Commandant of Cadets will help win him his second star quickly begin to fizzle. First the Academy’s ambitious superintendent resists his suggestion to expel a well-connected cadet who has been caught cheating. Then Waller has trouble controlling the rabid proselytizing of the Cadets Christian Fellowship (CCF). Meanwhile, idealistic Brook Searcy begins her career as a cadet with new friends, handsome Billy Claymoore and charismatic Mac Cherry, an army general’s son who happens to be Jewish. Brook also finds herself increasingly drawn to jaded Paula Snowe, the cheat, who takes the three cadets to a drinking party. The next day, Mac fatally crashes his glider during a solo flight. When traces of alcohol are found in his blood—as well as in Paula’s, Billy’s and Brook’s—Waller faces a new crisis that is not helped when the CCF makes inflammatory comments concerning Mac’s religion. Waller, who had previously noted a mechanical problem in the glider Mac crashed, begins to re-examine the foundation of his past career just as Brook, rocked by Mac’s death and a disillusioning sexual encounter with Billy, begins to question her future. Brook’s and Waller’s moments of truth intersect as Waller saves her from a foolish lapse in judgment while accepting the private failure behind his public success. Ponders takes a while to set up the situations, but once the plot gathers steam, it drives fast and hard.

Not just militarists will react strongly to the provocative questions raised here about honor, duty and personal responsibility.

Pub Date: June 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-06-084706-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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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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