RETERNITY

Wooten’s novel is an earnest coming-of-age tale as well as an inventive look at the contested borderland between science and faith.

Teenage Max is every parent’s dream: whip smart, he tutors his classmates in math and chomps at the bit to sign up for college science; a hard worker, he puts in extra hours at the local grocery store to help out his parents; he drives old ladies to church and helps them pay for food out of his meager salary; and he’s a devout Christian who attends his father’s parish every Sunday morning and can cite the Bible chapter and verse. But he’s also headed off to college, and his parents fear that the temptations of university life will change their boy wonder. Wooten’s tale tracks Max’s first year at Cedarbluff, a Christian college in Ohio. At Cedarbluff, Max befriends the Falstaffian Rollo, falls for the pugnacious Julie and battles fellow pastor’s son Brad in scriptural debate. But his most compelling interactions are with Professor Nowak, a physics teacher who tasks each new crop of students with the “Near Impossible Assignment,” a semester-long project intended to challenge and confound. Max’s assignment is simple: magnetize a lead ball. But the experiments he undertakes will bend the laws of nature, test his fledgling faith and upend his life. With Max, Wooten delivers a well-rounded, believable protagonist, and he surrounds his hero with compelling foils and game foes. Wooten’s dialogue is true-to-life, and his feel for pacing and dramatic tension is excellent. However, certain details feel a bit off—Max’s high-school mentee has to teach him how to text, his family has dial-up Internet and he has to take college algebra if he wants to qualify for an advanced physics course. (Most boy geniuses probably knocked algebra out of the park around age 13.) But these are small ripples that barely disturb the flow of this very strong young-adult fiction. Nearly impossible to put down.

Pub Date: July 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1612250410

Page Count: 239

Publisher: Mirror

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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