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THE LOST GIRLS

Overwrought, overwritten, unpersuasive.

A great concept—why women fall for Peter Pans who never grow up—with a less than great delivery.

This time out, poet/second-novelist Fox (My Sister from the Black Lagoon, 1998) focuses on Wendy, the fifth generation of Darling women to make the flight to Neverland. The Darlings are, “like all women attracted to men who charm but don’t commit, lost girls” who find it difficult to settle down to reality. Peter, with his island, free-spirited ways, and his gift of flight, will forever haunt them as they try to find men as charming but more mature. Narrated by Wendy Darling Braverman, great granddaughter of J.M Barrie’s original Wendy, the story begins as 40-ish Wendy, living in San Francisco with husband Freeman and teenaged daughter Berry, is recovering from a breakdown. Both hurt and touched by magic, she feels that her family’s visits to Neverland—maybe illusionary—have distorted their lives. Her father, who founded an airline, was a charming man who deserted his family: aging Nana, in London, is still trying to fly, and grandmother Jane has been gone for years. Since childhood, Wendy knew about the family’s rite of passage—the appearance in adolescence of a charming boy with whom she’d fly to Neverland. Peter duly appeared, but Wendy’s visit was a disturbing mix of happy and bad memories (she may have been raped by Captain Hook) that continue to haunt her. Moving between past and the present, Wendy, a children’s storywriter, recalls her childhood and marriage as she prepares daughter Berry for Peter’s arrival. Berry, deeply troubled and conflicted, is the only Darling who can’t fly, finding it increasingly difficult to live with the Darling legend. When mother and daughter are hospitalized, the appearance of grandmother Jane, dressed as an aviatrix, helps Wendy understand herself, her family, and the hold that Peter has on them all—a gift that allows the Darling women to soar above the quotidian.

Overwrought, overwritten, unpersuasive.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-1790-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2003

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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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