A good-natured book: free of histrionics but a tad overly sentimental.

TURNING THIRTY

The world’s most easy-going computer programmer has a midlife crisis—sort of.

British author Gayle (My Legendary Girlfriend, 2002) takes a purportedly shattering situation—such as turning 30—and gives it a decently entertaining and insightful spin. Matt Beckford is the almost-30-year-old who narrates the story. Originally from Birmingham, England, he is living in New York with cute and fun Elaine. They eventually decide that the spark has gone out of their relationship and that it’s time to break up (but stay friends, of course). So Matt arranges a transfer to his company’s Australia office (change of pace and scenery and all), effective three months from then. In the interim, he moves back to his parents’ house to reconnect with some old friends and get his bearings. You see, Matt’s not exactly a grownup (a grownup, in his mind, is defined as someone who not only buys, but actually uses, a wine rack), but now that his 30th is just around the corner, he wants to get on track to adulthood. Of course, living with Mom and Dad, and hanging out with his high-school drinking buddies and Ginny (Matt’s longtime on-again, off-again pseudo-girlfriend), is not exactly the best way to do it. But the reader should have no fear that Matt will be able to sort things out one way or another, since Gayle is not one for being a downer.

A good-natured book: free of histrionics but a tad overly sentimental.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7434-7765-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Downtown Press/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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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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