Bell is a gifted veteran, and though the more realistic half of this novel is more compelling and affecting than the mystic...


From Bell (The Color of Night, 2011, etc.), a novel about a young woman finding her way back aboveground both literally and metaphorically after a misadventure beneath the surface of things.

Julie ditches school for an overnight motorcycle trip into the badlands with her best friend, a potential love named Jamal, and two untrustworthy toughs. These last two turn out to be wannabe pornographers who have dosed her water with what appears to be LSD, and they chase Julie and Jamal up into the carious moonscape of cliffs and rocks, many of which have extensive graffiti tags ranging from contemporary spray paint to ancient Native American drawings. In her impaired state, Julie tumbles into a narrow and deep cave shaft, and it's almost two days before Jamal can bring help. After she's extricated, the "Cave Girl" spends weeks in a coma, with Jamal at her side—and with one of their assailants lurking menacingly, threatening to silence both of them. Meanwhile, Marissa, who gave her infant daughter up for adoption 17 years earlier, has suffered a shock of her own—a priest she worked with and loved dies suddenly of a heart attack. In a susceptible state, Marissa leaves her job and, heeding a mysterious impulse, goes looking for the daughter she abandoned. She quickly finds her in the comatose Cave Girl. In intercut chapters, Julie has embarked on a kind of vision quest inspired by the cave art and the landscape. Marissa and Jamal join forces, and eventually—with the help of a Native American enforcer/bounty hunter/shaman named Ultimo—they head both outward into the badlands and inward into a hallucinatory alternate reality to try to coax Julie back to ordinary reality and those who care about her.

Bell is a gifted veteran, and though the more realistic half of this novel is more compelling and affecting than the mystic fever dream, the whole is lyrical, ambitious, and well worth reading.

Pub Date: May 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-87286-744-4

Page Count: 280

Publisher: City Lights

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


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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