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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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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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