An engaging fantasy story about letting go of the past and learning to love oneself.

The Three Graces

Three young women, shaken by mysterious episodes in which they transcend time and space, forge an unlikely friendship in Wolfe’s charming debut novel.

It’s the fall semester at Boulder, Colorado’s Stone College for juniors Jessie, Sara, and Isabel, but midterm exams are the least of these girls’ worries. For each girl, what started as a few unsettling sensations—such as hearing music when none was playing or inexplicably smelling salt water—becomes something far more intense. It turns out that each co-ed has access to a hidden world. Their experiences, which seem like premonitions, aren’t always pleasant: Jessie becomes trapped inside a maze; Isabel finds herself marooned in a seaside cave; and chains “slither up” Sara’s arms and legs. As pressures at home and school begin to mount, the girls escape to California for what’s supposed to be a fun-filled getaway. However, their baffling out-of-body incidents continue. During a visit to Hearst Castle, Jessie, Sara, and Isabel are drawn toward a marble statue depicting the goddesses Brilliance, Joy, and Bloom. Can the connections they establish with the deities help them conquer their fears and put an end to their otherworldly excursions? Or has it just brought them closer to the forces they hope to escape? Although several supernatural elements skirt around the plot’s edges, the focus of this tale is on friendship. Jessie, Sara, and Isabel find one another at a critical point, as each woman questions herself and her future. Although the strange places in which they find themselves can be unsettling, it’s a credit to Wolfe that the most memorable passages are set in the real world. One such scene comes early in the novel as Isabel, who struggles to connect with her parents, watches her mother loosen her father’s boots after the old man has fallen asleep in his recliner: “It was only in moments like this, just glimpses really, when she felt anything for them,” Wolfe writes. “And how horrible was that?” Other epiphanies reveal themselves just as quietly, making for an unexpectedly tender—and honest—coming-of-age tale.

An engaging fantasy story about letting go of the past and learning to love oneself. 

Pub Date: June 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-941668-02-3

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Then Three Graces

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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