An ambitious, evocative small-town tale located somewhere between Peyton Place and The Last Picture Show.

SECTION ROADS

A 43-year-old murder casts a long shadow over a high school reunion that brings together three friends haunted by the past.

Not much changes in the New Mexico town of Arthur unless it absolutely has to, as a character observes in this debut novel that impresses with its strong sense of place. The stage for this decades-spanning saga is compellingly set when Hezekiah Boyd’s high school reunion committee tracks down the computer software maven. He insists there has been a mistake: The man, formerly known as Buddy, left town and never returned after a prank went wrong and he killed a classmate named Christy Hammond in 1966. He would not be a welcome guest. But the heart of the story shifts to Cullen Molloy and his first love, Shelby Blaine, Buddy’s classmates, friends, and fellow outcasts. Cullen and Shelby were a passionate teenage couple back in the day, and there is still an inextricable bond between them that is not unnoticed by Cullen’s current lover, a retired cop. Murphey keeps the story hopping between events in the ’60s, the aftermath in the ’70s, and the reunion in 2009, when a murder sheds light on the 1966 killing. Cullen, a divorced former lawyer who went to work for Buddy, is called on to defend the man from new suspicions and confront his own long-simmering relationship with Shelby. The author, a New Mexico native and award-winning journalist, knows the lay of the land; not just the geography, but also high school football culture, passionate fumblings in cars, and secrets to be taken to the grave. The book is densely populated with vividly drawn characters. One, Weard Ward, a former genius fried by his years with the CIA, serves as a sort of comic relief, but he is the weakest player. The antagonists, including Christy’s uncle and a former high school nemesis, spout clichéd dialogue (“You’ve got some…nerve showing your face here”). But the relationship between the three friends rings true and deftly holds the sprawling narrative together.

An ambitious, evocative small-town tale located somewhere between Peyton Place and The Last Picture Show.

Pub Date: May 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947392-51-9

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Acorn Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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