An astonishing—often suspenseful, always compassionate—depiction of humanity and the ties that bind us.


With an honest voice and abundant imagination, Rourks’ Southern gothic debut explores human kinship, violence, and isolation in rural Louisiana.

“There really isn’t anything astonishing about the moon trees,” says the narrator of the title story in this mighty debut. “As a matter of fact, some of them are lost. No one bothered to keep track of where they’d been planted, had never even made the plaques.” Much like these trees—their once-valued seeds taken into space to orbit the Earth—the characters in Rourks’ 15 inventive stories have been forgotten by society; on the surface, they’ve been left simply to grow, work, fight the elements, then die along the swamplands of Louisiana. “Everything Shining,” for example, describes the life of a laid-off, injured oil rig laborer. As he struggles to make sense of his new life, he begrudgingly lets his cousin store stolen scrap metal in his backyard, unaware of the disastrous consequences that will follow. In “Ghosts,” a woman fixates on the events leading up to her mother’s suicide as she prepares to meet her wife’s family and to give birth to a child of her own. While in “Pinched Magnolias,” a parish sheriff helps her sister cover up a violent crime, in “El Feo,” an ex-con works to build a new life for his family, even when he suspects he might have been framed for murder. With these stories, Rourks creates literary “plaques” for her characters—carving out space for and drawing attention to their experiences whether they are Pizza Hut employees, lawbreakers, or those too afraid to leave the house. Through her dynamic prose—graceful even as it propels each piece forward—she realizes the humanity of each individual. Themes of poverty, anguish, violence, and family loyalty—for better or worse—tie together these short tales. Still, amid such bleakness, Rourks infuses a sort of magic into each one. These worlds, alive with both the nature of Louisiana and the empathy the author brings to each character, will leave you eager for more.

An astonishing—often suspenseful, always compassionate—depiction of humanity and the ties that bind us.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62557-013-0

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Black Lawrence Press

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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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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