A potent story that offers an engaging meditation on the most basic desire—to know oneself.

Connected Underneath

As a family secret festers, a father strives to connect with his adrift teenage daughter in Legters’ emotional debut novel.   

Theo has raised the now-teenage Persephone, nicknamed “Seph,” since the day she was born. Back then, young Natalie, Seph’s birth mother, handed her daughter, the product of a fling with the high school basketball star, over to Theo, her loyal and protective friend, and she didn’t look back. He was a motorcycle-riding, boot-wearing, tattooed outcast, but he always wanted a family of his own. As a result, he was all too happy to adopt a child, due to his own genetic history of abuse and alcoholism. So without the help of his own parents or a partner, Theo raised Seph alone. He and Natalie remained in the same town and built lives of their own, but they made good on their promise never to tell Seph the identities of her real mother or father. But as she grows up, she starts staying out until all hours without returning phone calls, and develops a penchant for tattoos, dark clothing, and solitude. As a result, Theo worries that he and Natalie made the wrong choice by keeping her true origins from her. Seph’s habits and attitudes might seem normal for a teenager coming into her own, but Theo has a bad feeling about them, and it turns out that his fears aren’t entirely unfounded. A deep, spectacular tension propels this story forward as both Theo and Seph try to discover who they are to each other, so that they may find their own places in the world and within their family. Legters relays their psychological journeys with an acute urgency and a sense of inevitable doom (“Seph was born feeling lost”). It’s more than a story about adoption, family secrets, or guilt; it also addresses other universal matters, such as parents’ desires to be relevant to their children as they grow up and, as Theo puts it, how they can “break…the news that adults can make the worst possible decisions.” Eventually, the truth about Seph’s parentage comes out, and it’s not what readers will expect.

A potent story that offers an engaging meditation on the most basic desire—to know oneself. 

Pub Date: April 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59021-336-0

Page Count: 196

Publisher: Lethe Press

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2016

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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