An engaging, fast-paced story about bringing change to the military establishment.

BRASS CEILING

#ME-ILITARY TOO

A female soldier rises in the ranks and challenges the military’s silence about sexual assault in this novel.

Mylander describes this book as a follow-up to her 1974 nonfiction book The Generals. It introduces Maggie Malone, a U.S. Army major on her way to Afghanistan on a rescue mission in the late 1990s. The story circles back to Maggie’s childhood on the West Point campus, where her father coaches at the gym and she dreams of becoming a soldier. Maggie is accepted to West Point in 1981, soon after the school starts admitting women, but her career takes a detour when she confronts the commandant, Julian Gard, who’s gotten her younger sister pregnant. Gard agrees to support the child but assigns Maggie to attend medical school, hoping to drive her out of the Army. Maggie becomes an orthopedic surgeon at Fort Hood’s hospital, in Texas. She’s raped by a superior officer but doesn’t report it, fearing reprisals, and she finds herself transferred to a base in Yuma, Arizona. Her career stagnates, but she finds love with Ross Ivans, a fellow soldier. After she successfully operates on visiting congressman Mil Franklin, he becomes her advocate and her career finally progresses. However, problems arise in 1997, when her fellow soldiers leave her behind during a mission in Afghanistan and she’s taken prisoner. She remains a prisoner until the 2001 U.S. invasion, when she returns to find Ross married to someone else. Maggie throws herself into her career and rises to the post of Army chief of staff, which brings her back into conflict with Gard. However, she sets her sights on changing the military’s culture regarding sexual assault. The author delivers an engaging read with a fast-paced plot that will keep readers turning pages. Maggie is a strong protagonist, and the secondary characters are generally well developed. The author grew up in a military family, and her deep knowledge of Army traditions and the realities of military life add to the book’s feeling of authenticity. There’s a touch of wish fulfillment in Maggie’s journey to the top, but it’s justified by Mylander’s portrayal of how the military's current structures and policies make advancement for women exceedingly difficult. The prose is solid and often insightful (“Bachelors are welcomed as prospective husbands and escorts….But single servicewomen of any age are considered loose cannons, threats to the wives and to the established order”), and U.S. Senate confirmation hearings are particularly compelling in Mylander’s hands. There are occasional moments of melodrama—for instance, Maggie’s mother reveals a long-held family secret just seconds before she dies—but they don’t detract from the overall narrative. The concluding chapters are set in the near future, but the story feels very much in the moment, as it deeply engages with contemporary discussions of sexual harassment and assault, representation and tokenism, and leadership and ethics. It will appeal to military fiction enthusiasts as well as those interested in women’s issues, and it’s likely to be thought-provoking for a wide range of readers.

An engaging, fast-paced story about bringing change to the military establishment.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68603-711-5

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2020

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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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