PICKING UP THE PIECES

With their lives languishing in as much disrepair as the houses they inhabit, three women—mother, daughter, and granddaughter—find themselves renovating old relationships and making some stunning changes. Once again, Sheepshanks (Facing the Music, 1997, etc.) offers an intelligent, lighthearted romp through that very British terrain of manor houses, titles, and money. Here, the houses, as much protagonists as the characters, are in Yorkshire, where recently widowed Kate Rendlesham, still living in the family home of Longthorpe House, wants to build a new life for herself—which includes finding somewhere else to live. Daughter Joanna Maitland, who adored her father Oliver (she—ll soon learn he was a nasty sadist), is a caterer and culinary columnist. Married to lawyer Mike, she wants to move her family into Kate’s house, but her marriage is in trouble, and she’s not doing well as a mother, either. Fifteen-year-old Harriet, born when Joanna was a student at Oxford, doesn’t get on with her mother (who steadfastly refuses to identify Harriet’s father). The three women, helped and hindered by a marvelous supporting cast, begin to pick up the pieces they’ll need to craft more satisfactory lives. Kate finds and restores a house—a former observatory on the nearby Ravelstoke estate, which has itself just been bought by tycoon Jack Morley; establishes a design business; and finds herself falling in love with Jack. Joanna learns the truth about her father and begins to reconcile with Mike. Harriet, feeling unhappy and unloved, searches for and finally finds her father—where she’d least suspected. Soon enough, houses and hearts alike are mended. A classy comedy of manners that’s also a delightfully witty commentary on those two great passions—the love of humans for each other for and their old homes.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-312-19997-X

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1998

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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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Laymon moves us dazzlingly (and sometimes bewilderingly) from 1964 to 1985 to 2013 and incorporates themes of prejudice,...

LONG DIVISION

A novel within a novel—hilarious, moving and occasionally dizzying.

Citoyen “City” Coldson is a 14-year-old wunderkind when it comes to crafting sentences. In fact, his only rival is his classmate LaVander Peeler. Although the two don’t get along, they’ve qualified to appear on the national finals of the contest "Can You Use That Word in a Sentence," and each is determined to win. Unfortunately, on the nationally televised show, City is given the word “niggardly” and, to say the least, does not provide a “correct, appropriate or dynamic usage” of the word as the rules require. LaVander similarly blows his chance with the word “chitterlings,” so both are humiliated, City the more so since his appearance is available to all on YouTube. This leads to a confrontation with his grandmother, alas for City, “the greatest whupper in the history of Mississippi whuppings.” Meanwhile, the principal at City’s school has given him a book entitled Long Division. When City begins to read this, he discovers that the main character is named City Coldson, and he’s in love with a Shalaya Crump...but this is in 1985, and the contest finals occurred in 2013. (Laymon is nothing if not contemporary.) A girl named Baize Shephard also appears in the novel City is reading, though in 2013, she has mysteriously disappeared a few weeks before City’s humiliation. Laymon cleverly interweaves his narrative threads and connects characters in surprising and seemingly impossible ways.

Laymon moves us dazzlingly (and sometimes bewilderingly) from 1964 to 1985 to 2013 and incorporates themes of prejudice, confusion and love rooted in an emphatically post-Katrina world.

Pub Date: June 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-932841-72-5

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Bolden/Agate

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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