A fond reminiscence of a man’s coming-of-age summer working as a firewatcher in the Montana Rockies.

Greene seemed to always have a love of the outdoors. But after the watershed summer of 1943, he devoted his life to nature, becoming an esteemed biology professor, director of an educational nature center and president of the American Nature Study Society. The foundation for this impressive life was laid when he was a wide-eyed 16-year-old on a journey to the unexplored spaces of northwestern Montana. There, far away from his home in suburban Philadelphia, he planned to work on a trail maintenance crew and gain a Thoreauvian appreciation of life. Cabinet National Forest was a desolate, uninhabited and supremely beautiful place—but also terrifying at times, particularly to a teenager. Like any great journey, the summer was not without its ups and downs. Greene switched crews several times in the first weeks and experienced homesickness and longing for his girlfriend more than 3,000 miles away. What lay ahead, however, would prove to be the most challenging. Within a week of beginning his sojourn as the solitary firewatcher atop Berray Mountain, Greene had several near-breakdowns. In one suspenseful, touching scene, he flees down the mountain, unable to bear the loneliness of his station, seeking civilization or human contact in any form. A wise ranger calms him with a stern lesson, and from there, Greene is a changed man. Through it all—or at least through the retelling of it—Greene maintains a humility, sense of humor and earnestness that is wholly appealing and endearing. The story itself is well written and steady, and some of the most enjoyable sections are the author’s open, honest analysis of his younger self’s less attractive emotions. Most importantly, this is no sad, elegiac memoir; instead, it’s a man toasting his youth and celebrating life with the same vitality he earned so many summers ago. An excellent memoir for those who have experienced the wonder of open Western space, or the delayed rush of maturity.


Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2011

ISBN: 978-1618630001

Page Count: 165

Publisher: Bookstand

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2012

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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 first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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