The whole narrative unfolds in a dreamlike manner, and Moore’s translation is elegant and sensitively attuned to the...

BIRTH OF A BRIDGE

Originally published in French in 2010, this novel follows the conception and building of a bridge in the timeless, almost mythical Coca, California.

It’s fitting that the epigraph comes from Jorge Luis Borges, for the world de Kerangal creates has a surreal Borges-ean feel to it. The central character is the bridge itself, though it’s surrounded by humans of various shapes and statures. The project manager is Georges Diderot, outsized in body and in reputation, who has the almost unimaginably complex job of coordinating the job with the personalities of the workers. Central among these is Summer Diamantis, aka “Miss Concrete,” who’s in charge of this central aspect of the civil engineering. She’s used to being a pioneer in her field and has ventured into the solid world of shaping concrete in part to escape her past. We also meet Sanche Alphonse Cameron, the chief crane operator, whose base of operations is a 6-foot-square box 150 feet above the ground. (Although this is a tight space, before the novel ends, he succeeds in having a sexual tryst there.) John Johnson, also known as The Boa, is Coca’s ambitious mayor, who has decided that the old Golden Bridge will just no longer suffice, for he needs to make a name for himself. De Kerangal delights in naming her characters playfully and philosophically, so we also meet worker Kate Thoreau, architect Ralph Waldo and minor character Verlaine. Despite obstacles like a fatal accident and the threat of a work stoppage, the bridge does eventually get built.

The whole narrative unfolds in a dreamlike manner, and Moore’s translation is elegant and sensitively attuned to the author’s wordplay and neologisms.

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-88922-889-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Talonbooks

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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