Schuster’s off-kilter portrait of a guy unsatisfied like the old Replacements song adds pivotal bite to the pre-programmed...

THE GRIEVERS

When a prep-school classmate dies, a graduate student past his sell-by date must face his escalating anxiety over growing up.

After lightly eviscerating the life of a suburban housewife in his fiction debut, Schuster (The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom and Party Girl, 2009) turns his attention to the wilderness years of 20-somethings in Philly. Grad student Charley is elbow-deep in wallpapering with his wife Karen when a phone call idly informs him that Billy Chin, a former classmate from Saint Leonard’s Academy, committed suicide by leaping off a local bridge. It’s quite the wake-up call for a young man mired in the quicksand of his dissertation and a dead-end job promoting a bank in a giant dollar-sign costume. In a neat metaphor, he’s regularly blown off his feet by passing semis. This means we often learn more about Charley’s unstable personality through internal monologues and cell conversations inside the suit than during the Hamlet-esque paralysis of his life. To assuage his fears, Charley calls his Marx Brothers-quoting best friend Neil Pogue and their gang of comrades from Saint Leonard’s to dream up a tribute to their fallen friend. Five bills in hand, Charley reacquaints himself with former teacher Phil Ennis, now the school’s greed-motivated, self-important development director. Charley’s lack of backbone lets old rival Frank Dearborn turn what was intended to be a tasteful tribute to Billy into a garish festival complete with performance art. Charley is not a nice guy but his spiraling tumble into self-awareness is a wince-worthy exercise in sympathy. “All because I refused to do anything,” Charley admits. “Because doing something meant change. Because change meant growing up. Because growing up meant leaving so much behind.”

Schuster’s off-kilter portrait of a guy unsatisfied like the old Replacements song adds pivotal bite to the pre-programmed humor of his ensemble. 

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-57962-263-3

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Permanent Press

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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