A stirring and deeply felt story.

A THIN BRIGHT LINE

As the Cold War gave way to movements for civil, women’s, and gay rights, many Americans believed that major social change was inevitable.

Indeed, Lucybelle Bledsoe thought that as opportunities emerged, people of color, lesbians, and gay men would finally be able to live authentically. What a relief that would be, even for a nonactivist lesbian like her who demanded recognition for her work, not her identity. As an editor with the Army Corps of Engineers; the Snow, Ice, and Permafrost Research Establishment; and the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, she made the scientific papers of numerous scientists accessible to a general readership. Her colleagues touted her diligence and persistence and were devastated when, at the age of 43, she died in a house fire. Her niece Lucy Jane Bledsoe (The Found Child, 2015, etc.), then 9, had many questions about her beloved aunt; sadly, all she was able to glean was that Lucybelle was intelligent—and unmarried. As Lucy Jane came of age, she began to wonder about Lucybelle’s personal life and uncovered references to a “companion” named Vera. Later, a few other details materialized. Still, Lucy Jane wanted more; eventually she realized that she’d have to use her imagination to re-create Lucybelle’s environment. The resultant novel merges fact and fiction to create a historically accurate picture of the struggles faced by LGBT people in the 1950s and '60s; the closeting that was required for professional advancement; and the ways the Cold War pitted pure science against research to benefit the defense industry.

A stirring and deeply felt story.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-299-30930-5

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Univ. of Wisconsin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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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