Next book

LUCIUS

A startling look at race relations in the American South.

A very old, white Southern man recounts a fantastical story about his life with a slave companion in this debut novel.

Fifty-year-old Mordecai “Tree” Weissman lives in Atlanta, not far from a river where Confederate and Union soldiers battled during the Civil War. While volunteering at the Jewish Home for the Elderly, he meets an eccentric Southern gentleman, Benno Johnson, who grew up in Atlanta. Benno, a charming raconteur, regales Mordecai with stories of his youth—which include tales of his slave, Lucius Cincinnatus Jones. Mordecai is understandably incredulous, as it’s currently 2017. He asks the home’s resident psychiatrist, Dr. McBurney, about it, and he can’t conclusively rule out the possibility that Benno’s stories are true. Author Lieberman devotes the bulk of his extraordinarily imaginative debut novel to Benno’s anecdotal account of his life with Lucius (and the strange manner of Lucius’ death). It soon comes to light that Benno is only about 90 years old and spent nearly his entire life with Lucius, who died about three years before. When Benno’s account gets into the details of Lucius’ death, it becomes even more peculiar, but also more engrossing. He says that Lucius once fled an angry Ku Klux Klan rally into a swamp, where he was able to communicate with animals and had a particularly lively exchange with two frogs. Mordecai soon notices that Benno only ever talks of Lucius in the terms of friendship and love: “He’d say things, and you would hear them, and you wouldn’t know who you were supposed to be rooting for. You wouldn’t know if he and Lucius were on the same side, the same team, or whether that was a morally perverse thought, practically implausible, and shameful to have even thought.”  In the end, Lieberman leaves it tantalizingly unsettled as to just how much of Benno’s remembrance is real and how much is apocryphal. Although Benno’s autobiography seems like fabulist insanity on its face, he delivers it all with placid self-assurance, and Mordecai is a perfectly drawn straight man for the old man’s wild tales. The younger man predictably disbelieves them, but he also gets pulled deeply into the narrative, hungry to hear more. Throughout, Lieberman’s prose is confidently informal and anecdotally intimate in a way that courts the reader’s trust. The way that he presents Benno’s story, readers will likely share Mordecai’s discomfort with it, as the old man’s telling seems tainted by the stain of racism. Some may also be uncomfortable with the fact that this anti-slavery novel attempts to offer a morally nuanced account, thinking that it whitewashes the gruesomeness of bondage. However, the book is a deeply original meditation on race and friendship. It’s impossible to gainsay Benno’s devotion to Lucius, and their loving camaraderie does raise provocative questions about the nature of devotion. This inaugural effort is rather brief—short enough to be considered a novella—which makes its artistic and philosophic depth all the more impressive.

A startling look at race relations in the American South.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-984186-52-2

Page Count: 211

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2018

Categories:
Next book

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

Categories:

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 41


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • National Book Award Finalist

Next book

A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 41


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • National Book Award Finalist

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

Categories:
Close Quickview