A finely wrought family drama.

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Fireflies in the Night

Tragedy and powerful but fraying limitations on women roil an Indian family in this intense historical coming-of-age novel.

In 1957, the expectations for Indian women are pretty cut-and-dried: be a good housewife. Unfortunately, in the family of Achan Krishnan, a tax collector recently reassigned to the chilly Himalayan province of Assam as a punishment for not taking bribes, such certitudes no longer satisfy. His beautiful wife, Devi, longs for more erotic passion than the stolid Achan can muster; her longings inflamed by racy romance novels, she casts her gaze at a handsome British plantation manager who dances with her at parties while Achan fumes. As if to overcompensate for her improprieties, Devi strictly polices her two daughters: Anu, a dutiful teenager, and Kavita, an unruly, 9-year-old scamp. The family tensions ratchet up when Kavita’s little brother, Arun, the apple of his parents’ eye simply because he’s a son, gets eaten by a tiger during an outing to a park. The grief-stricken Devi shaves her head and goes silent, then rebounds into even more scandalous conduct with the Brit. As the girls head into adulthood and feel the liberating tremors of the 1960s, she imposes a straightjacketing virginity-protection regime on them—no contact with boys allowed—while plotting arranged marriages to dreary older men. But a violent rupture looms as Anu conceives a forbidden love with a boy not of her caste. Warriar’s (The Enemy Within, 2005, etc.) novel, told mainly through Kavita’s voice, steeps readers in Indian culture, reveling in vivid descriptions of foods, landscapes, colorful fashions, and convoluted mores. It’s also a subtle, gripping study of patriarchy as it blights women’s lives while poisoning their relationships with one another. Kavita grows up in a world that prizes her virginity yet subjects her to constant molestation attempts by men. Meanwhile, Devi—suffocating in a loveless marriage and a generally unfulfilled life and acting out in brazen ways—is determined to impose the same hell on her daughters; indeed, she comes to see them as the main stumbling blocks to her happiness. But although Devi’s an almost monstrous character, the author still manages to portray her sympathetically. Warriar’s richly textured novel portrays this unraveling family with real emotional depth, showing how social pressures turn parents and children against one another.

A finely wrought family drama.

Pub Date: June 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9877484-1-6

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Warriar Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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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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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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