BLU'S HANGING

Yamanaka's giddy, bawdy, and genuinely moving second novel (Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers, 1996) concerns three Hawaiian Huckleberry Finns, children left motherless and in poverty, who must fend for themselves against a harsh, indifferent world. When Ella Ogata dies, her husband Poppy vanishes into the drudgery of his menial night and day jobs, leaving 12-year-old daughter Ivah in charge. Ivah knows that everything is falling to pieces despite her efforts to feed the family on white-bread-and- mayonnaise sandwiches, with dinners of cold cream-of-mushroom soup poured over hot rice. Brother Blu is soon grotesquely overweight and drawn to an impressive panoply of local perverts. Little Maisie won't talk and wets her pants in school, where she is humiliated by some self-righteous Caucasian teachers. But setbacks or no, the children manage to create their own, often magical, world—one that is never lacking in energy and ingenuity (expressed in gloriously funny Hawaiian pidgin) and even allies (the kids' butch cousin Bib Sis and her schoolteacher girlfriend Sandi). They survive despite incursions from the feral Reyes family, a half-dozen violent, sex- happy sisters and their dope-dealing incestuous Uncle Paulo, who has his eye on both Maisie and, as it turns out, Blu. The plot turns on a secret that's revealed: Ella and Poppy were child lepers, raised in a remote colony, miraculously cured by sulfa drugs in 1949, afterward bravely (and vainly) trying to join the ``normal'' world—but then things hurtle toward melodrama as Ivah is about to depart for boarding school. Uncle Paulo chooses this moment to rape Blu, an act that leads Poppy to accuse Ivah of abandoning her family. Fortunately, Big Sis and Sandi are there to make everything right. A pungent mix of poetic observation and vulgar reality, and further evidence that a literary Renaissance is brewing out in Hawaii: Here's a novel that rejects exotic gush for an unflinching vision relayed by a unique voice. (For other Hawaii-set fiction, see Pamela Ball and Nora Okja Keller, above.)

Pub Date: April 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-374-11499-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1997

Categories:

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 29


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • National Book Award Finalist

A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 29


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • National Book Award Finalist

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Categories:

MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

Categories:
Close Quickview