GORGEOUS LIES

Somewhat rambling, but fine work nevertheless: a moving portrait of a foolish, foul-hearted, but impossibly innocent man.

In a continuation of McPhee’s Bright Angel Time (1997), the strange and lovely life of a man is recalled by all of the wives, children, and assorted others who have gathered around his deathbed.

Previously, Anton came across mainly as a hippie: a 1970s Esalen gestalt therapist who preached free love and practiced what he preached—with a vengeance. Here, his life is looked at from farther back, this in light of his just having been diagnosed with inoperable cancer. From Texas, Anton was raised in a devout Catholic family, entered the Jesuit order in the late 1940s, and spent several years training to be a priest. While studying at Notre Dame, he fell in love with Agnes, an oil heiress, and in 1954 left the order to marry her. The sexual obsessions that had plagued him in religious life weren’t conquered by the Sacrament of Matrimony, however, and his philandering gradually led to much unhappiness, an illegitimate son, and a Haitian divorce of dubious legality. After leaving Agnes (who won custody of their five children and agreed to pay him alimony), Anton takes up with the newly divorced Eve Cooper, who comes to him for psychotherapy. Later, Anton and Eve start a communal farm in New Jersey called Chardin (as in Teilhard), where they live in domestic confusion with Eve’s three daughters, some of Anton’s children, and their own daughter Alice (who was nearly aborted but saved by a family vote). Chardin becomes mildly famous, written up in People and Look and shown on TV documentaries, but the children and Eve eventually leave Anton and go their separate ways. They all return once they learn that he’s dying, however, and collectively argue over how they can or should remember him once he has gone.

Somewhat rambling, but fine work nevertheless: a moving portrait of a foolish, foul-hearted, but impossibly innocent man.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-15-100613-X

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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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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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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