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AMERICAN FASCIST

An intelligently crafted novel, but one that’s more interested in reproducing real-life events than inventing new ones.

In this political thriller, a talented tech guru helps a controversial real estate magnate become president and becomes embroiled in his nefarious dealings. 

In a remarkable upset, billionaire businessman Harold P. Franks—modeled, in large part, on Donald Trump—wins the presidency, defeating seasoned political veteran Eleanor Wilson. He wins by divisively pandering to disgruntled racists and unrepentant nationalists. Eli Green, a tech wizard working for a prominent data analytics firm, contributed to the victory, and he so thoroughly impresses his superiors that he’s invited to join Franks’ administration. He’s tasked with compiling and parsing data on voter fraud, but first, he’s given a more sensitive assignment—to prepare a cellphone for Franks that’s entirely private and unknown to members of the so-called “deep state” who might want to listen in on his communications. As Green accomplishes this, he stumbles upon a text message to Franks that reads “don’t forget,” along with a video of the president apparently about to have sex with a young Russian girl. Green finally decides that he not only wants to jump ship, but also blow the whistle on his boss, and he contacts the FBI and a New York Times reporter. But when the journalist turns up dead, Green realizes that bringing down a president isn’t so easy. Debut author James shines most brightly when delving deeply into Franks’ idiosyncrasies, and he sensitively limns his—and, by extension, Trump’s—strange public power: “When he spoke, the words were nearly always empty, or so full of contradiction that it rendered them meaningless; and so the listener projected an image of the world they already identified with, for better or worse.” However, the plot borrows very generously from current events; indeed, the author meticulously—almost journalistically—re-creates multiple controversies that have swirled around Trump’s presidency, including a possibly collusive relationship with Russia, an adversarial contretemps with an FBI director (whom Franks finally fires), and an embattled standoff with the press. As a result, readers looking for a fictional reprieve from political news won’t find it here. 

An intelligently crafted novel, but one that’s more interested in reproducing real-life events than inventing new ones. 

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-980841-86-9

Page Count: 241

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2019

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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FIREFLY LANE

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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