A MATTER OF PRIDE

AND OTHER STORIES

Seven stories that focus on the lives of Hispanic women offer some intriguing possibilities, but the repetitiveness of the plots and the similarities of the characters' epiphanies lessen the impact. Told in a disappointing prose that explains rather than explores, Mohr's tales all touch on the lives of displaced women coming to terms with the restrictions of their culture. The title piece is symptomatic: In 1959, Paula and Charlie leave their native New York for a honeymoon in Puerto Rico. Paula expects the vacation of her dreams, but Charlie takes off with some old buddies and refuses to return until he's had his bit of fun—which leaves Paula in the restrictive house of relatives, where she's told how a new Puerto Rican wife is to act: A husband's infidelities are expected, and ironing his shirts so that he's presentable to his mistress is a matter of domestic pride. Paula realizes that she can't live so limited a life and opts for independence. Several stories are identical in agenda, depicting young Puerto Rican New Yorkers breaking free of their oppressive relationships with domineering men to explore their own identities. ``Memories: R.I.P.'' diverges in telling the tale of a close-knit family in the 1950s torn apart when an older brother starts to sell heroin from their South Bronx apartment. Younger sister Patty returns to the old neighborhood many years later to witness the urban decay that the onslaught of drugs—and indirectly her own family's complicity—helped create. ``Utopia, and the Super Estrellas'' presents a congenial portrait of transvestites in a remote mountain village, but the few stories that transcend the author's narrow pattern don't do enough to make up for the overall sameness of the collection. Mohr (Rituals of Survival, 1985), also a children's author, attempts a feminist interpretation, but the conclusions are often more facile than persuasive.

Pub Date: June 15, 1997

ISBN: 1-55885-163-1

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Arte Público

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1997

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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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