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BRASS CEILING

#ME-ILITARY TOO

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

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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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A LITTLE LIFE

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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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

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