Romantic fish-out-of-water debut with a feminist undertone.


Freedom takes many forms for a sheltered young Iranian woman who travels to Tucson, Ariz., in search of a new life—and a husband.

Depressed over the small and restrictive life that awaits her in the Islamic Republic of Iran, 27-year-old Tamila Soroush is stunned and grateful when her loving parents give her a one-way plane ticket to America. They send her to Arizona in the hopes that her pragmatic older sister Maryam will find the pretty former school teacher a suitable Persian husband within the three months allotted by her tourist visa. Once she arrives, Tami experiences wonder over the wide array of choices that American women take for granted, like being able to walk down the street uncovered without fear of arrest. During such a walk, on her way to an English class at the local library, she stops at a Starbucks and catches the eye of Ike, a hunky regular dude working there who is charmed by her naïve ways. She likes him too, but dismisses his advances, knowing they would interfere with her family’s plans for her. Considering romantic love a luxury she cannot afford, Tami indulges her rebellious side by photographing the everyday expressions of freedom that would be unheard of in her homeland. She also meets a series of eligible bachelors, including Haroun, a handsome engineer eager for a wife. That Haroun is also a neurotic germaphobe who insists she undergo a full medical evaluation before he proposes does trouble Tami, but she sees him as a sensible answer to her dilemma. Back at the library, she befriends a predictably lovable group of quirky immigrants, including the German sexpot Eva, courtly older Czech gentleman Josef and pregnant Russian mail-order bride Nadia—whose abusive redneck husband makes nutcase Haroun look like a great catch. With her new friends’ encouragement, Tami finds her confidence and inner strength in the face of the inevitable compromises she believes are necessary for her to fulfill her destiny. This newfound boldness leads to an 11th-hour decision that will either send her straight back to Tehran, or offer an opening for a certain smitten barrista who would do anything for his Persian Princess—if only she would ask.

Romantic fish-out-of-water debut with a feminist undertone.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2007

ISBN: 0-553-38388-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2006

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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