Light and life-affirming fare about letting go of worry and embracing uncertainty.


The further adventures of a tightly wound Manhattan businesswoman and her infuriatingly easygoing father.

Brett apparently has a strong following in her native Australia, but it may not be so for much longer if she keeps moving her characters to New York. Her heroine, Ruth Rothwax, is an Aussie woman of Polish-Jewish descent—her father is an Auschwitz survivor—now relocated to Manhattan, where she runs a thriving letter-writing and greeting-card business. In Too Many Men (2001), Ruth brought her father Edek back to Poland, where she spent the whole time fretting about why he wasn’t more upset by revisiting that den of anti-Semitism; there were times when Edek’s Auschwitz experience seemed to bother Ruth more than it did him. Now Edek has moved to New York and is working in Ruth’s office, where he quickly drives her crazy with his constant scheming and enthusiastic over-ordering of supplies. Ruth’s agitation hits stratospheric heights, though, when Zofia and Walentyna, a pair of widows whom the two had become friendly with in Poland (Zofia and Edek getting more than friendly), show up in New York to live with Edek, and get Green Cards, and in the process manage to bring out all of Ruth’s cattiest tendencies. The irony of the situation is that even as Ruth is railing against Zofia and Walentyna, she is attempting to start a womens’ discussion group the primary purpose of which is to combat such tendencies. Given that much of Brett’s narrative is a headache-inducing ride through Ruth’s encyclopedic array of neuroses—this is a woman who brings steamed vegetables in a Ziploc bag to restaurants—it’s a relief when Edek and his widows (a chaotically appealing trio) announce to Ruth that they want to open a restaurant and need just a smidge of funding. This is a faster, leaner work than Brett’s previous effort. If only the author could find her other characters as interesting as she does Ruth.

Light and life-affirming fare about letting go of worry and embracing uncertainty.

Pub Date: July 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-050569-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2006

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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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