This seemingly cynical family tale offers redemption in unexpected places.


A literary novel explores more than a dozen mostly failed relationships, a family’s quest for happiness, and the hope of salvation. 

Set on a family farm in rural Georgia, this tale revolves around Jude and her first husband, Buddy Owen, “king of the bad-luck blues,” and their nervous adult son, Harold, who bears the scars of his parents’ failed marriages. Buddy, fresh from his fifth broken marriage, moves into the condo behind Jude’s house and secretly plots to make her fall in love with him again, even though he claims he and Harold are not the kind of “men who beg for miracles.” When Harold brings his high-strung, agyrophobic (afraid of crossing roads), and acerbic fiancee home for Christmas, the family must confront its checkered, courthouse-and-altar-strewn past. The engagement marches on even as Harold’s squeamish fiancee finds a mutilated farm dog and runs away, stealing his car. The novel steps into the past to examine Harold’s first love as well as his parents’ various love affairs. It also looks candidly at the 60-year relationship between Harold’s self-sacrificing grandmother and her husband, who suffers from dementia and verbally abuses her. The periphery is filled with eccentric, broken characters, like Buddy’s brother (who is one of Jude’s later husbands), who fears he will suffer a heart attack if he tries to cross the county line. The story’s clever banter serves as comic relief for its otherwise heavy tone (“ ‘Because it’s no contest that the bad things Harold learned over the years, he learned from you.’ ‘Who said anything about a contest?’ ‘I said it’s no contest’ ”). Cashion (Last Words of the Holy Ghost, 2015, etc.) keeps his touch light when exploring the issues between Buddy and Jude as they dive headfirst into questionable, often absurd relationships with lovers and spouses they later regret. This leaves the idea of Buddy and Jude an obvious, almost inevitable possibility. Bittersweet, understated observations about love and happiness tie together the episodic love affairs of Jude, Buddy, and Harold: “We each insisted that we were happy,” and “I felt what I imagined love must feel like because there was no language to account for it.” The prose boasts poetic descriptions: “The pecan trees were dressed in Spanish moss so thick they looked like great-grandmothers wearing grey dresses.”

This seemingly cynical family tale offers redemption in unexpected places. 

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-60489-184-3

Page Count: 204

Publisher: Livingston Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...


Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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