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WOLF

A NOVEL OF LOVE AND BETRAYAL

An ambitious, sometimes-illuminating tale set against political unrest in Burma.

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A literary novel tells the story of a Burmese revolutionary trying to escape his enemies.

Burma, 1988. Famous student revolutionary Mothi Awegoke is on the run from intelligence agents for his role in the demonstrations against the country’s military junta. As he flees through the streets of Rangoon, he is almost run over by a white Mercedes, but the young woman inside it recognizes him and offers him a ride. After concealing him for a few days, the woman, Thuzar, arranges for Mothi to be smuggled out of the city on a ship. When he asks how he will find Thuzar again, once things settle down, she tells him it will be she who locates him: “You always think you can blend in with the crowd and you are so inconspicuous. But you blend in about as well as a true pigeon blood ruby in the mud. You positively glow. You’ll never sink in muck. Of that I am certain. You’ll always be famous and not difficult to find. You’ll see.” Her words prove prophetic, as Mothi’s fight to bring democracy to Burma takes him across the country into Thailand and, eventually, America. As he travels, seeing the lives of the people who help him along the way, he remembers the events of his youth that spurred him to political activism. Kaung’s (The Rohingya Genocide in Burma, 2017, etc.) prose is highly detailed, capturing life under Communist rule in startling images: “Inn Inn’s high-heeled slippers fell apart when it rained because they were reinforced with cardboard. She had bought three pairs because she thought it was a good price and she might not see them again. When the first pair dissolved, she wore the other slippers only during the dry season.” Mothi is a flawed, sometimes-infuriating character, and the story is likewise idiosyncratic in its structure and pacing. But the work is wonderfully specific, and its blend of history, politics, and episodes feels organic and somehow appropriate. It’s a novel that works through accumulation—it’s nearly 500 pages—but at the end of it, readers will feel they have an intimate understanding of this character and his country.

An ambitious, sometimes-illuminating tale set against political unrest in Burma.

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4792-0388-8

Page Count: 484

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2019

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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FIREFLY LANE

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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