A quick, sometimes-frustrating read that may inspire in-depth conversation but that’s compromised by rambling verbosity.


Miller (Guilty or Innocent, 2011, etc.) jumps into the 2020 presidential race with a new and unusual fictional candidate.

A man named Harold, who admits to being “a screwball in a novel,” introduces himself as a 73-year-old man who’s obsessed with the idea of running for president in the next election. As the story opens, it’s “November 9, 2016. Trump won.” Although Harold realizes that he himself is “a nobody,” he figures that Trump’s victory means that he could also be “a valid candidate.” Before plunging into his policies, Harold warns readers that he’s the creation of an author who “may have some…type of aberration, himself.” One of Harold’s signature issues is the plight of the homeless. He theorizes that the answer to that problem and other “issues of concern to all of us” lies in better communication among the citizenry of the United States. To that end, Harold is an advocate of free speech “with absolutely no reservation or qualification.” If what you say or write doesn’t result in physical harm, it’s OK, he says. Even social media postings that threaten violence should be allowed, he asserts, because then we “have a chance to do something about it.” He also says that although he doesn’t agree with football players who take a knee in protest, he fully supports “their right to do so.” He’s for abortion rights and also favors state right-to-die laws. His solution to the immigration problem? Allow other countries to apply for U.S. statehood. Miller’s character is a self-deprecating gadfly who, as a presidential contender, seems designed to alternatingly please and offend readers—and in this, he’ll likely succeed. The author delivers Harold’s platform in uncomplicated prose that’s sometimes humorous. However, it also frequently slides into stream-of-consciousness rambling, which obscures his message: “So, you can read on if you wish….But you should realize that I don’t really make much sense realistically…. And further, if you took this seriously and wanted to nominate me for president, I would refuse point blank.” The candidate proposes a judicial system based on rehabilitation, to effect “a change in the lives and motivations of the criminal.” Release from prison shouldn’t be based upon time served, he says, but rather on the prisoner’s “working out the problem and changing.” At the same time, he believes that victims of crimes resulting in serious bodily injury should be able to get revenge for closure. In this way, his political positions defy classification. One minute he appears to be compassionate and concerned about social problems; the next, he seems infuriatingly obtuse. He opposes #MeToo, for instance, because he believes that it could lead to “the end of the right of [the] accused to defend himself.” He dismisses the idea of woman being “bothered in her mind all her life because a man touched her.” The victim, he asserts, “should learn to accept the innate terribleness of life.”

A quick, sometimes-frustrating read that may inspire in-depth conversation but that’s compromised by rambling verbosity.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-359-44586-8

Page Count: 91

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2019

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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 strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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