WHAT GOD WANTS

A German native and Australian author evokes the rich texture of modern-day Jewish-Australian life in these 16 engagingly down- to-earth tales—first published in Australia, where they won the 1992 National Steel Award, and Brett's first collection to be published here. In ``Moishe Zimmerman's Wife,'' 38-year-old Ruthie Brot succumbs to decades of sexual frustration by having an affair with Abe Lipshitz, a married man passed along by a fellow aerobics student. Not far down the road, in ``Something Shocking,'' adultery works a more evil magic on one of Ruthie's sisters-in-law, Susan Silver, who reacts to her own husband's extramarital affair by painting ``My husband is schtooping a shikse'' across the front of their house. Other members of Ruthie's tightknit Melbourne circle have their own, equally all-encompassing stories, most highlighting the tension between the Jewish past and present and each getting fair exposure here. These include, in ``Half-There,'' the obsession of Ruthie's other sister-in-law, Golda Goldenfein, with her experience as the daughter of concentration camp survivors; in ``What God Wants,'' Ruthie's father's announcement that his much younger Filipino wife is going to have a child; and, in ``Moving Meals,'' Abe's wife's frantic efforts to lose herself in volunteer work until her husband's love affair has run its course. As the months pass, few here are ever actually abandoned, though many temporarily stray, while gossip is energetically circulated via telephone calls, lunches, and the all-important weekly women's gin rummy game. Just when the tales of bed-hopping and scandal- mongering begin to wear on the soul, one of the more thoughtful protagonists, mildly neurotic Susan Cohen, flies off to New York with her family, where her sudden solitude allows for welcome depth and texture after the chattier Melbourne stories. Brett's abrupt, unadorned style can be off-putting, but, as with many of her characters, one grows fond in the end. Sketches throughout by David Rankin, the author's husband.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1993

ISBN: 1-55972-193-6

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Birch Lane Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1993

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 18

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

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

Did you like this book?

Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s...

HOME FRONT

 The traumatic homecoming of a wounded warrior.

The daughter of alcoholics who left her orphaned at 17, Jolene “Jo” Zarkades found her first stable family in the military: She’s served over two decades, first in the army, later with the National Guard. A helicopter pilot stationed near Seattle, Jo copes as competently at home, raising two daughters, Betsy and Lulu, while trying to dismiss her husband Michael’s increasing emotional distance. Jo’s mettle is sorely tested when Michael informs her flatly that he no longer loves her. Four-year-old Lulu clamors for attention while preteen Betsy, mean-girl-in-training, dismisses as dweeby her former best friend, Seth, son of Jo’s confidante and fellow pilot, Tami. Amid these challenges comes the ultimate one: Jo and Tami are deployed to Iraq. Michael, with the help of his mother, has to take over the household duties, and he rapidly learns that parenting is much harder than his wife made it look. As Michael prepares to defend a PTSD-afflicted veteran charged with Murder I for killing his wife during a dissociative blackout, he begins to understand what Jolene is facing and to revisit his true feelings for her. When her helicopter is shot down under insurgent fire, Jo rescues Tami from the wreck, but a young crewman is killed. Tami remains in a coma and Jo, whose leg has been amputated, returns home to a difficult rehabilitation on several fronts. Her nightmares in which she relives the crash and other horrors she witnessed, and her pain, have turned Jo into a person her daughters now fear (which in the case of bratty Betsy may not be such a bad thing). Jo can't forgive Michael for his rash words. Worse, she is beginning to remind Michael more and more of his homicide client. Characterization can be cursory: Michael’s earlier callousness, left largely unexplained, undercuts the pathos of his later change of heart. 

Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s aftermath.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

Did you like this book?

more