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IF YOU WANT ME TO STAY

Parker does a fine job exploring Joel’s pain, but the overworked music/love connection is not enough to give his story...

Soul music acts as a lifeline for a tormented adolescent whose family is disintegrating.

Three things about this very short novel hit you immediately. The first is the voice of the narrator, 14-year-old Joel Junior; the second is the invocation of America’s rhythm-and-blues singers; and the third is the terrible plight of Joel and his little brothers, Carter and Tank. For his fifth work of fiction, Parker (Towns Without Rivers, 2001, etc.) takes us back to Trent, North Carolina. Joel’s daddy is not right in the head. When he’s having one of his spells, he hears voices; he has destroyed the TV with his golf clubs, though he hasn’t (yet) laid a hand on his kids. Joel’s mama was the first to jump ship, followed by her firstborn, Angela. Now Joel is father and mother to both his kid brothers. He expresses perfectly his lost Southern self, as he tries to make sense of the inexplicable. What sustains this beaten-down white boy is his love of the great black soul singers, a taste he has inherited from his father, who has just broken down again. Fearing the worst, Joel bundles his brothers into the pickup, but Carter gets loose; their daddy ties him up and cuts his hair, snipping off an earlobe. Joel has seen enough; he drives Tank and himself to the coastal town where Angela is waiting tables, but she’s a tough cookie and disinclined to help. After failing to track down their mother, Joel and Tank return home to a catastrophe. That’s not much storyline in a novel that is all about love: love promised, love withheld, love struggling against the odds.

Parker does a fine job exploring Joel’s pain, but the overworked music/love connection is not enough to give his story ballast.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2005

ISBN: 1-56512-484-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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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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