A moving story about cultural alienation and familial identity.


In this 16th-century love story, an Onondaga girl and a Welsh boy meet on a deserted island.

Following the death of her mother, Nushèmakw is raised by her mother’s clan in an Onondaga village, although her absentee father is Lenape. Naturally empathetic, she’s haunted by powerful visions and always somewhat alienated from her fellow villagers because of her mixed heritage. Nushèmakw is also ungovernably mischievous. After she twice interrupts ritual ceremonies and angers her cousin and warrior-in-training, Guiarasi, she is sent to live with her father and his people at the age of 12. But when her father dies as a result of a siege, she’s forced to flee unaccompanied to Little Turtle Island until it’s safe to return. Meanwhile, Owen, a Welsh boy, is sent to become a friar. He apprentices as a scribe, translating manuscripts. He resists taking the full orders to become a brother because the vow of chastity would prevent him from marrying and starting a family. He becomes entranced by the politically subversive writing of Sir Thomas More and is endangered when King Henry demands that all his subjects pledge allegiance to the crown at the expense of both God and the pope. Owen flees with his uncle Seamus and ends up washed ashore on Little Turtle Island, where he meets Nushèmakw. Both blessed with a facility for learning languages, they’re quickly able to devise a makeshift one with which to communicate, and they begin to fall in love. But Nushèmakw frets that a marriage between the two would imperil Owen since Guiarasi still hatefully vows his revenge. Johnson (Yellow Bird, 2010) writes in a meditatively poetic style, full of emotion and depth: “Then you came. This strange man, all alone. I saw then how large the universe is, and how many secrets it holds. I could see the whole world spinning under the heavens.” Both characters’ stories are powerful enough to stand alone, and the author dexterously weaves them into one coherent narrative. She also provides a penetrating, timely exploration of cultural difference.

A moving story about cultural alienation and familial identity.

Pub Date: June 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-90947-8

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Garden Gate Farm

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2017

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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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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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