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EIGHTEEN ACRES

No serious insight into how governing works, but an enjoyably gossipy dishing of Inside-the-Beltway residents of all...

Given Wallace’s previous gigs as G.W. Bush’s communications director and an advisor to the McCain-Palin ticket, it is impossible to read her first novel about the tribulations of the country’s first woman president without trying to glean factual nuggets from the often-transparent fiction.

Moderate Republican Charlotte Kramer, 45th president of the United States, heads into her re-election campaign struggling with the troubled economy and war in Afghanistan left by her (Republican) predecessor and beset by criticism that she’s too cool and unemotional—aside from being female, white and Republican, she sounds a lot like Barack Obama. Chief of staff Melanie Kingston, who is burned out after 15 years in the White House, learns from her media source that Charlotte may be about to face a sex scandal on top of her governing issues. The truth that Charlotte already knows but doesn’t want to share with Melanie is that her husband Peter is the one having an affair, with White House correspondent and weekend anchor Dale Smith. The presidential marriage has been a sham for years since Charlotte began putting her career before Peter and their children (cardboard characters conveniently tucked away at boarding school). When Charlotte comes under sniper attack in Afghanistan, her Secretary of Defense Roger Taylor—whose devotion is barely platonic—saves her life by switching helicopters with the press, causing Dale serious injury. Wracked by guilt, Charlotte drops everything to sit by Dale’s bedside until she’s well enough to travel. Charlotte fires Roger and acknowledges Peter and Dale’s relationship in what turns into a PR coup. Then her trusty vice-president drops off the ticket so she can replace him with the crude, despicable Tara Meyers, a conservative Democrat with no experience but vaulting ambition; fashionista Melanie’s antipathy toward Tara comes across largely in her disdain for Tara’s clothes. Meanwhile go-getting Dale recovers under Peter’s care only to go to work for Tara. The poor men in this novel are such pushovers.

No serious insight into how governing works, but an enjoyably gossipy dishing of Inside-the-Beltway residents of all persuasions.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4391-9482-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2010

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 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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