A touching account of family dysfunction as it exists side by side with loving, close-knit relationships.

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Geography of Shame

A multigenerational exploration of the impact of southern Italian heritage on the offspring of immigrants who came to America at the turn of the 20th century.

Divorced and later alienated from her only child, Arianna Naso decides to plumb the depths of her Italian-American upbringing, in search of a pattern that could explain the chaos that she feels rules her personal life. The book begins as memoir, with Arianna recalling a pivotal 1963 trip to Florida when she was a rebellious teenager. It then lurches forward to 2008, pausing to present Arianna’s three-chapter manuscript of a biography of her great-grandparents Angelina Rotolo and Orazio Longo. With two babies in tow, Angelina and Orazio left the small, poverty-stricken village of Rutino, Italy, to find a better life in Brooklyn, New York. Enduring hardships and discrimination, the family nonetheless experienced financial success. Arianna’s mission, however, is to understand the darker side of the family dynamic, particularly the heavy drinking and violently abusive treatment of women. As she digs into Angelina’s past, she discovers the mythologies handed down from the ancient Greeks and Romans, the Arabs, and finally the Spaniards, all of whom settled in southern Italy before the country was unified in 1861. Feola (George Bishop, 1997) debuts as a novelist with a complicated text that alternates between past and present and between first- and third-person narratives. Through her protagonist, Arianna, she creates an intricate, intimate portrait of Italian immigration to the United States and of subsequent generations of Italian-Americans who grew up within the confines of their parents’ and grandparents’ customs and expectations. The author’s work is rich with historical tidbits, but it’s Arianna’s personal struggle to break free from her alcoholic husband, deal with her drug-addicted, emotionally disturbed son, and overcome her own escape mechanisms—including eating disorders and binge shopping—that form the heart of the story.

A touching account of family dysfunction as it exists side by side with loving, close-knit relationships. 

Pub Date: April 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-938812-41-5

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Full Court Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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