An uplifting reading experience.

NOWHERE BUT HOME

A heart-wrenching tale told with true wisdom and a brilliant wit that morphs into a heartwarming and inspiring experience.

The book opens with Queenie Wake getting fired from her job as a chef at a Manhattan hotel restaurant. She has been through similar failures in cities across the country from Los Angeles to New York, always on the run, but this time she decides to head back home to North Star, Texas. Growing up in North Star, Queenie and her older, loving sister were doomed to inherit the disdain of the community due to a mother known as the town harlot and a completely absent father. Their mother was killed when Queenie was 16, and she still harbors mixed feelings about the neglectful mother’s untimely death. She returns home to cheer when her sister’s son debuts as the star quarterback on the high school football team, but she is not really certain she will stay. Once there, she reconnects with the love of her life, whose marriage to a socially more suitable woman, selected for him by his upper-class parents, is the reason Queenie left North Star in the first place. On the career front, she gets a job cooking last meals for death row inmates at the local prison. This job will lead her into one of the most moving and inspiring scenes any writer could possibly imagine and thence to the happiness that she craves and deserves. Along the way, Queenie will witness, and sometimes influence, positive changes in the lives of other residents of North Star. Palmer (More Like Her, 2012, etc.) demonstrates a remarkable grasp of human psychology. Her running interior monologue is so funny and real that the reader quickly relates to Queenie. The dialogue is equally real, and each character comes alive with his or her own distinct voice. The excellent use of language and metaphor makes several long back stories feel short, and the author handles the complex connections with superb skill.

An uplifting reading experience.

Pub Date: April 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-200747-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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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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