A lightweight novel that’s paradoxically both earthy and frothy.

SO IT GOES

Actor Tucker, best known for his work on L.A. Law, writes his first novel—about an actor who loses his beloved wife to cancer, though hints of a May-December romance are in the wings.

Herbie Aaron and his wife Annie have been a celebrity couple over many long years, but Annie is now facing her final curtain. Herbie deals with this in part by hitting the bars pretty hard, and in one he notices Olive, a bartender who’s a knockout but who’s also young enough to be his daughter. He tells Annie about Olive, and Annie insists on meeting her. When the inevitable happens and Annie dies, Herbie gets in touch with his agent to help Olive land a job—somewhat implausibly—as an actress, and despite the prodigious unemployment rate among professional actors, Olive lands a job in Uncle Vanya, albeit in Rochester rather than on Broadway. Meanwhile, Herbie copes by heading to South Carolina to play some golf and reminisce about the good times he had with Annie. While trying to master the intricacies of a game he doesn’t even like, he hires Billy (a woman) to improve his skill on the links, but because Billy is a lesbian, Herbie wisely senses the unlikelihood of romance from that quarter, though Billy’s sister Roxanne is another story. Every evening, however, he gets a phone call from Olive, who gives progress reports on her rehearsals with a hot-shot young director and a lead actor who seems to be having psychotic episodes—or is he merely an actor who pretends to have psychotic episodes to juice up his role as Vanya? By the end we’re led to believe that despite his loyalty to Annie, Herbie might in fact find a life with Olive.

A lightweight novel that’s paradoxically both earthy and frothy.

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59020-735-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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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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