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LYNELLE BY THE SEA

An overwritten first novel with a high emotional pitch tells of two very different women whose lives briefly intersect, and are changed forever, when one, mourning her own losses, steals the other’s baby. Lynelle, despite her happy marriage to Hogan, is still hurting from the death of her mother, Grace, when she was a child in Florida. Now living in New Jersey, she names her newborn Grace, but the child dies from sudden infant death syndrome. Unable to deal with this new grief on top of her old sorrows, Lynelle goes to Florida for healing comfort. Meanwhile, in Illinois, Annie, wife of successful executive David and mother of Nick, Sophie, and baby Dylan, works as a volunteer at a battered women’s center while studying for her master’s. Yet she feels frazzled and tired, and though she loves Dylan dearly, she hadn—t wanted a third child’she—d wanted instead to make a life for herself. She hopes her upcoming visit to Florida to see her ailing father will restore her. Told in alternating chapters, the two women’s tales are filled with would-be profundities: “[H]e understood me in a funny roundabout kind of way. The only way anyone can understand another person, by looking sideways, around the face we put on for the world.” In Florida, Lynelle impulsively makes off with Dylan, whom Nick has momentarily left alone, and heads to her old home, only to find all the familiar landmarks gone. When Dylan is discovered missing, Annie is distraught, Nick feels guilty, and David, usually in control, can’t handle the crisis. The baby is soon found, and Lynelle is arrested, but Annie, relieved that Dylan is safe, wants to meet his kidnapper. A meeting ensues, with unexpected consequences for both of them. Now they can move on, having learned that being loved and forgiven matters, that life is filled with “love and pain, with loss and discovery.” Pulp fiction.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2000

ISBN: 0-525-94536-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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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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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

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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