A riveting character study that turns seemingly routine lives into something extraordinary.


In this debut novel, a small group of people in a New England cul-de-sac spend a bleak summer dabbling in deceit, aversion, and sordidness.

Dr. Carla Bishop, a new assistant professor of political science at Yale, moves to Staniford Drive in Dorset, Connecticut. She and her husband, Phil, a lawyer between jobs, are the only blacks in the community. Other cul-de-sac residents include Neil Testa, who has recently lost his father and is essentially a recluse, staying at home either drunk or stoned. Amanda Holbrooke is a homemaker living with her husband, Gavin, a security company owner, and their son, Kyle, who’ll start college in the fall. Seventeen-year-old Ethan Carlisle is infuriated by his new lacrosse position of team manager, which he assumes is due to his last-season flub that cost the team the state championship. Turmoil for everyone slowly creeps in. Phil’s inability to secure employment leads to apparent despondency; Amanda grows weary of Gavin’s incessant financial manipulation; and Ethan frequents Neil’s house to buy whatever booze or drugs the man has. While some community members’ fantasies may spark an extramarital affair, others’ resentments within their households carry over to their neighbors. All of this negativity is bound to explode into hostility—or something violent. Mancuso writes in a straightforward style that meticulously covers the individual narrative perspectives of Carla, Neil, Amanda, and Ethan. The novel offers a tense, anticipatory tale from the beginning, as the very first line specifies that one character is a mere month away from death. From there, the story deftly hints at the seediness bubbling beneath everyone’s lives. For example, Gavin controls Amanda with a biweekly allowance while Carla and Phil endure microaggressions at a neighborhood garden party. But Gavin’s domineering nature seems a precursor to physical abuse, and Amanda believes her husband is racist, even if not overtly. Despite readers’ knowing someone will die and watching certain players, like Neil, spiral downward, both the narrative and the characters are often unpredictable. All of these threads culminate in an uncompromising and unforgettable ending.

A riveting character study that turns seemingly routine lives into something extraordinary.

Pub Date: Dec. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-949116-24-3

Page Count: 402

Publisher: Woodhall Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2020

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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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.


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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