While not every offering will surprise readers, these tales provide new ways of looking at biblical figures.


A collection of short stories centers on the time of Jesus.

Casper’s (The Sing Song Child, 2015) first tale in this volume begins with a carpenter with a withered hand. Although the man did well for himself, at one point he angered the wrong Pharisee and people began to wonder if his deformity was a curse from God. When the carpenter meets Jesus, his hand is miraculously healed. The story has its origins in the Gospel of Mark, and most of the other tales here also have their bases in the New Testament. There is the conversion of Saul of Tarsus; the quelling of a tempest by Jesus on the Sea of Galilee; and the changing of water into wine at a wedding celebration. Portions that stray from biblical material include “Right Hand Man,” a firsthand account of a robber and murderer who is crucified on Golgotha, and “Thief,” which features letters Judas Iscariot, “that rodent of a man,” writes to himself. One foray into more modern times involves a demon’s attempt to trick a dying war veteran. Each story is written in plain language, as in “Thief” (“He cleared his throat. I could see tears streaming down his cheeks”), and kept relatively short, about 10 pages or less. Some of these brief narratives work well in humanizing otherwise opaque situations. What might it feel like to be a criminal in the time of Jesus and suffer crucifixion for a misdeed? The story of the robber skillfully drives home the brutality of Roman rule, not to mention the nearly inconceivable idea of being personally involved in one of the most famous narratives of all time. By contrast, more familiar tales are somewhat less thrilling. The man with the withered hand doesn’t have a whole lot in his backstory of interest. Sure, the Pharisee he angered was hypocritical and the protagonist jokingly admits that he was a better carpenter than Jesus, but such details hardly make him memorable. Likewise, the rendition of Saul’s miraculous change does not add much to the biblical telling. Nevertheless, the pieces progress smoothly and are strongest when expanding on (in an easy-to-read manner) what any reader with a loose understanding of the New Testament already knows.

While not every offering will surprise readers, these tales provide new ways of looking at biblical figures.

Pub Date: June 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9905144-1-1

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Sing Song Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2019

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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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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...


Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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