POSTCARDS FROM PINSK

An exuberant account of a Boston psychiatrist whose wife leaves him, who then takes a roommate, and who later discovers that a late midlife crisis is better than none at all. In the late 80's, Orrin Summers, a Beacon Hill shrink in his late 50s, loses his composure when he receives a postcard from wife Gail with the news that she can no longer live with him. What to do (``Even God did not play God so openly—telling people what to do'')? Summers has lived a rather hermetic existence, and now he must begin to look around him. He visits his family—son Clyde, a professor, and his kids—and also takes a roommate, lawyer Eli Paperman (``Justice isn't abstract to me, or even relative. It's absolute, obvious, moral''), who is often away but otherwise ``organizing the tiniest detail of your life.'' After experiencing ``an intellectual renaissance''—notes , ideas, theories, possible papers—Summers finds satisfaction in visiting the Club—cigars, liquor, deep-backed chairs—and in playing the role of grandpa to Clyde's kids. Meanwhile, he investigates his daughter Elspeth's life—she's a rock star who lives in ``in utter Bohemian disrepair'' and who has a coke-dealing reggae drummer for a lover. Summers, of course, is learning to accept the world without manipulating it, and eventually he weathers a depression, as well as a stint in the hospital, and accepts the fact that Gail has flown the coop for good. By then, fortunately, Paperman's ex- girlfriend, Marcie Green, is available, and Summers finds happiness with her (or something resembling it). Sweet-natured—with a quaint hero whom Duberstein (Carnovsky's Retreat, The Marriage Hearse) handles with an appropriate wry tone. In all: an affectionate portrait of a lost soul who doesn't know it until he finds out for himself.

Pub Date: May 1, 1991

ISBN: 1-877946-04-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Permanent Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1991

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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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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