An enjoyable magic carpet ride back to an earlier time and a gentler place.

VALLEY OF THE MOON

Two narrators, separated by nearly a century, tell a tale of old-time charm and contemporary agita.

It's 1975, and Lux Lysander, a 20-something single mother in San Francisco, is besieged by modern life. Working as a waitress, she's living paycheck to paycheck, with “maxed-out credit cards, beans and toast for dinner three times a week.” Her young son, Benno, is the product of a brief fling with a black soldier killed in Vietnam. To escape from her problems, Lux (Latin for “light”) goes alone on a camping trip to California’s wine country, Sonoma, also known as the Valley of the Moon. By an improbable freakish combination of full moon and dense fog, she's transported to Greengage Farm (pop. 278), a 1906 idealistic community trapped in a time warp that occurred because of the great San Francisco earthquake. Joseph Bell, in his 40s, is the Londoner who founded Greengage in honor of his idealistic mother, who committed suicide. Lux learns that Joseph, a man profoundly ahead of his time, has created “a residential farm where all jobs were equally valued and all jobs, whether done by men or women, paid out the same wage.” Naturally, Joseph, who conveniently becomes a widower midway through the book, is “six feet tall, with dark hair and eerie light blue eyes.” Lux is the only outsider who knows about Greengage, whose residents vanished without a trace. The book is mainly Lux’s story as she falls in love with the community, ping-pongs through time, and flirts for a decade with Joseph. For the most part, author Gideon (Wife 22, 2012, etc.) deftly handles Lux’s disorienting and occasionally loopy lifestyle. Will Lux decide to permanently stay with handsome Joseph or return to the headaches of her real life? You guess.

An enjoyable magic carpet ride back to an earlier time and a gentler place.

Pub Date: July 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-345-53928-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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