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Learning to Fly

A heart-rending, satisfying story about a resolute wife.

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A young woman overcomes a painful past in order to find purpose and passion in this coming-of-age tale set in the 1970s and ’80s.

Life hasn’t been fair to Rosemarie. Abused and abandoned as a toddler, the New Jersey native spends her teenage years dodging a lecherous adoptive father in this work of fiction by first-time novelist Leonard. To avoid conflict, Rosemarie spends as much time as possible away from home. When she becomes pregnant at age 17, despite feeling some trepidation, she jumps at the chance to move in with her boyfriend, Tommy, musing: “Finally a real family.” Yet Rosemarie is soon dealt more disappointments. In order to provide for her and baby Margie, Tommy works long hours for his employer, the mysterious Vinnie. On some nights, Tommy doesn’t come home. On others, he returns covered in cuts and bruises, often reeking of whiskey and the perfume of another woman. Determined to forge her own path, Rosemarie begins taking art classes at a community college. There, she finds success as a painter and explores the possibility of a relationship with a sweet and sensitive instructor. But just as Rosemarie starts to envision a brighter future for herself, Tommy’s actions put the whole family in peril. The subjects tackled by Leonard, ranging from child abuse to domestic violence, are chilling in nature. But the power of her narrative lies in the transformation of her main character. Over the course of the novel, readers have the satisfaction of seeing Rosemarie’s views of herself—and her world—change for the better. Some plot twists are a bit too convenient, but Leonard has an eye for detail and emotional authenticity. In one bittersweet passage, the author describes the Polaroid pictures that Rosemarie hangs on her mirror. Depicting happier times, the images take on another meaning as her marriage starts to crumble, a cruel reminder “of what she wanted and what was missing in her life.”

A heart-rending, satisfying story about a resolute wife.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5147-5838-0

Page Count: 270

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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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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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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