A genre-crossing short story collection that’s full of dark imagery.

A Cat Will Play

From the Shadow Book series , Vol. 2

Duda (Bedtime for Seneca, 2015) brings an eerie twist to three new character-driven tales in his second story collection.

A small, post-apocalyptic community summarily executes its weakest members in “CRDL.” A ghost meets her dead father and finally learns to let go in “Christmas Never Snows.” And in “Cosmo’s Tale,” a girl seeking more exciting friends realizes that sometimes the biggest changes need to come from inside, not from a new social group. The shortest of Duda’s three stories, “CRDL,” leaves a lasting impression; the acronym stands for “Care of the Reclaimed and Deceased Beloved” and represents a chilling process of composting noncontributing members of society in order to provide energy and resources for the survivors. There are overtones of Ursula K. Le Guin’s famous 1973 story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” here, but they’re inverted: those who seek to change or leave the society inevitably end up joining the others in death. The second tale features two sets of parents and children—Miss Leal, a ghost whose late father, Flit, attempts to convince her to move on; and a new trio: Tim, who committed a crime for Samantha, the abusive mother of a crippled daughter. When the daughter inadvertently breaks three dolls that are important to Miss Leal, Flit is able to finally get through to his child. The parallels between the two broken families never quite gel, though the idea that the ghosts can find healing and wholeness implies hope for the living. The majority of the book is comprised of “Cosmo’s Tale,” the story of Esther, an eighth-grader who wants more from her life than just following the rules. She’s selected Trish, a marijuana-smoking rebel, to be her new friend and recruits her for a school charity. When Trish takes the money for the fundraiser, leading to tragedy, Esther becomes an outcast, and it’s only through thoroughly messing up a potential friendship with another girl that she realizes that there are more important things than one’s reputation. Esther’s growth comes off as genuine, and her development from being a self-centered person to one who can reach out to others is well-drawn.

A genre-crossing short story collection that’s full of dark imagery.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9863647-2-3

Page Count: 50

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2015

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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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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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