THE SECOND TIME WE MET

A capable though lackluster second novel from Colombian-American novelist Cobo (Tell Me Something True, 2009) about an American man searching Bogotá for his birthmother. 

The book begins in Colombia during the era of guerrillas and paramilitary fighters and small towns that are captive to their power struggles. A quiet village is invaded by a group of guerrilla soldiers from the mountains, and their leader Gato has taken a shine to Rita Ortiz, a prim, studious girl. Armed and dangerous, Gato, or Lucas, is really just a boy himself, and the two teenagers sneak off for afternoon trysts. When his commanding officer discovers the affair, Lucas is sent back to their mountain camp as punishment. This could have been merely a bump in Rita’s well-planned life, but soon she discovers she’s pregnant and is sent away before she shames her strict family. She lives in an orphanage while pregnant and works at a flower farm, giving up her baby as soon as he is born. Despite having been a top student with dreams for a prosperous future, Rita stays away from her family and takes a job as a maid. Her baby is adopted by an American couple; two decades later, after a near-fatal car accident (one that ruins his future as a soccer player), Asher Stone goes to Colombia in search of his mother. Though he has caring parents, he asks the same questions many adopted children have: Who I am, I and where do I come from? How Rita Ortiz disappears and reemerges as Joanna López is a far more interesting story than Asher’s search for answers, and when the novel leaves Rita it slows to a halt with Asher’s musings about his origins. It is not clear why his brush with death has sent him halfway around the world. Instead of a focused urgency, his search holds a kind of vague desperation that loses the reader’s attention.    

 

Pub Date: Feb. 29, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-446-51938-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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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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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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