A spirited debut that should satisfy fans of both sports and historical YA fiction.

Prophecy of the Eagle I

THE STORY OF A NATIVE AMERICAN BOY AND LACROSSE

A coming-of-age tale of a Onondaga youth applying the ancient lessons of lacrosse to the strictures of reservation life in turn-of-the-century New York state.

Celeste’s debut novel begins with an in-depth first-person account of Pontiac’s uprising of 1763, wherein Pontiac explains both the importance of lacrosse, or Bagadowe, as a rite of manhood and the existence of a prophecy that tells of an eagle, carrying a bloody stick, that will one day drive the Europeans from America. The story then jumps to the Onondaga reservation south of Syracuse in 1909, where the tale is taken up by Fallen Tree, a descendent of Pontiac and grandfather of the novel’s protagonist, Jake Harwood. Jake’s is a very different era for Native Americans than that of his famous ancestor: one of shrunken lands, poverty, Christian missionaries and Bureau of Indian Affairs agents. Jake, reared on the traditions of Bagadowe and Native resistance, must navigate school, love and social rivalries, learning to be both a Native American and a man. Ending in a cliffhanger, the book is the first volume of a duology; the sequel will detail Jake’s life at the Carlisle Industrial School for Indians. The strong, efficient prose keeps the tone of the work serious but not unsmiling, and native issues add interest to this action-heavy YA novel. Celeste has a talent for fashioning the sports sequences that lie at the story’s center. Lacrosse doesn’t feel merely symbolic; it’s imbued with a vitality that makes the scenes dance. Celeste shows a community simultaneously decadent and triumphant, bastardized and dynamic. These traits coexist in Jake himself, who proves a multilayered (if familiar) hero for this formative tale. Though many forces, present and past, weigh upon Jake’s sense of responsibility, he reads as a full enough character to make the reader believe that Jake will, in time, figure things out for himself.

A spirited debut that should satisfy fans of both sports and historical YA fiction.

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2014

ISBN: 978-1494291426

Page Count: 380

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2015

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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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Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s...

HOME FRONT

 The traumatic homecoming of a wounded warrior.

The daughter of alcoholics who left her orphaned at 17, Jolene “Jo” Zarkades found her first stable family in the military: She’s served over two decades, first in the army, later with the National Guard. A helicopter pilot stationed near Seattle, Jo copes as competently at home, raising two daughters, Betsy and Lulu, while trying to dismiss her husband Michael’s increasing emotional distance. Jo’s mettle is sorely tested when Michael informs her flatly that he no longer loves her. Four-year-old Lulu clamors for attention while preteen Betsy, mean-girl-in-training, dismisses as dweeby her former best friend, Seth, son of Jo’s confidante and fellow pilot, Tami. Amid these challenges comes the ultimate one: Jo and Tami are deployed to Iraq. Michael, with the help of his mother, has to take over the household duties, and he rapidly learns that parenting is much harder than his wife made it look. As Michael prepares to defend a PTSD-afflicted veteran charged with Murder I for killing his wife during a dissociative blackout, he begins to understand what Jolene is facing and to revisit his true feelings for her. When her helicopter is shot down under insurgent fire, Jo rescues Tami from the wreck, but a young crewman is killed. Tami remains in a coma and Jo, whose leg has been amputated, returns home to a difficult rehabilitation on several fronts. Her nightmares in which she relives the crash and other horrors she witnessed, and her pain, have turned Jo into a person her daughters now fear (which in the case of bratty Betsy may not be such a bad thing). Jo can't forgive Michael for his rash words. Worse, she is beginning to remind Michael more and more of his homicide client. Characterization can be cursory: Michael’s earlier callousness, left largely unexplained, undercuts the pathos of his later change of heart. 

Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s aftermath.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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