A harrowing work that conveys chaos, confusion and raw fear.

THE FARTHER SHORE

Eck’s debut follows a group of American GIs who are left behind in enemy territory and must find their way back.

In an unnamed, presumably African city occupied by the U.S. Army, a group of six soldiers are left behind while guarding their unit. Each has a battle partner: Heath and Fizer; Santiago and Zeller; and Cooper and the narrator, Josh Stanz. Josh and Cooper are the quiet members of the group. Cooper, a native of the occupied country who fled to America as a child with his grandparents after his parents had been murdered, is known throughout the unit for being a religious virgin devoted to a girl at home. Josh is more introspective, cursed with a nervous stomach, an active guilty conscience and a fervent desire to get home safely and make it to college. While on guard, Santiago and Zeller open fire on a group in the building, who turn out to be unarmed children. Justifiably fearing retribution, the group moves, but not before Cooper is shot by enemy fire. Cooper’s death is poignantly unceremonious and unsentimental, as is most of the novel. The soldiers debate about his remains and use his food and water, and all are forced to accept the loss with little emotion. The soldiers continue to move, occasionally linking up with locals for various purposes (in Santiago and Zeller’s cases, usually casual sex). Josh finds a brief kinship with a man named Michael, and in one conversation, they illuminate the mysteries of modern warfare—is it possible, as Josh claims, that America is actually losing lives in, and taking lives from, this country to be of help? Eventually, after collecting countless physical and emotional wounds and nearly succumbing to hunger and dehydration, the group is reunited with their compatriots, which is when they learn that they have only just been listed as missing. In such novels as The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien perfected the art of nuanced war fiction. Eck follows in his footsteps, emphasizing not the drama of the soldier’s ordeal, but the painstaking, spirit-breaking, heart-wrenching details.

A harrowing work that conveys chaos, confusion and raw fear.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-57131-057-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Milkweed

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2007

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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