A poignantly told story of ruminative remembrance.

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In this debut novel, a writer reflects back on his tortured relationship with his father.

Walker Maguire’s dad, Michael, was an impressive man—an Air Force surgeon who rose to the rank of colonel and hospital commander. But then he was unceremoniously forced out of the military in 1969, 10 years before his retirement, and found work as a company doctor at an automotive plant. Embittered, he turned to alcohol and violently took his resentment out on Walker. As a grown man in 2005, Walker must deal with the fact that his father, now in his 90s, is in a coma due to a terrible car accident and likely to die soon. Walker flies out to Belford, the unspectacular factory town in northern Illinois that served as the stage of his father’s banishment from professional success. Walker is inspired to pen his reflections on his volatile connection with his father and begins to write a private memoir that draws him back to the fateful summer of 1974, when he held a job at the factory where his dad worked. There, Walker witnessed a confrontation between workers Norm Ditweiler and Manny Camarasa—the former the father of his ex-girlfriend and the latter a Latino laborer, resented by bigoted white co-workers. Walker was reluctant to share what he saw with anyone; he only had a privileged vantage point because he was goofing off in an unauthorized area. But when Manny’s livelihood was threatened, Walker was obliged to intervene, which pitted him against his father. In this novel, author Guerin beautifully captures the powerful contradictions of the relationship between father and son, which combines elements of friendship and antagonism. The author only gradually discloses Walker’s epiphanies about his dad, which not only transform the protagonist’s personal opinion of him, but also the future arc of his own life. The prose is confident and confessional throughout, and Guerin draws the reader into the compelling story by having Walker unflinchingly reveal his sense of disappointment in himself. Like the journalist he is, Walker clamors for the truth, whether it’s consoling or not.

A poignantly told story of ruminative remembrance.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-936135-71-4

Page Count: 535

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

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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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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