Horror schlockmeister Clements's fourth outing rises above 1993's Children of the End, again posits a brilliant plot idea, and again slips and slides looking for traction. In the earlier novel, humanoids ran amok with religion, much of it learned from TV commercials and sitcoms, and worshipped Vulcan, the Christ of the monsters. Here, chapters alternate between the California present and the Indiana past of lawyer Jeffry Dittimorechapters that more or less grow shorter as the novel goes along until past and present merge into a fictive present existing only in the collective imagination of the populace of Middlefield, Ind., Jeffry's hometown. When Jeffry has a nervous breakdown in Los Angeles, in part because his adulterous wife divorces him just as she undergoes a sudden conversion to Christianity, his boss says get some rest and Jeffry flies home. At first, the town looks completely revamped, but as the chapters blur, Middlefield past fades into Middlefield present, a black hole from which no bus, plane, or car escapes. Jeffry finds himself fighting for his life among demons reared by his childhood friend Timothy, who cut the throat of another childhood friend, then died, and nowstill a childhas sucked Jeffry into the past/present to play murderous boyhood games with him. Hovering over all is an electrically demonic tree that Jeffry as a teenager burned down but that's been reborn. Jeffry also meets Gail, the tragedy-stricken love of his teenage years whom he tossed aside but now again loves. Alas, Gail's a ghostthough one he can live with in fictive Middlefield if he so chooses, once he has battled Timothy to his second death. When the plot finally takes hold at midnovelafter a long setting upit's as fun and inventive as Clements' earlier fundamentalist humanoids.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 1995

ISBN: 1-55611-442-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Donald Fine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1995

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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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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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