Another deft helping of absurd social comedy and unconventional wisdom from a writer of singular, decidedly English gifts.

PARADISE LODGE

An English teenager with a rackety home life finds part-time work in a local retirement home and encounters old people, eccentricity, gossip, and death.

Lizzie Vogel was 10 when she narrated the first tragicomic installment of life with her family in Stibbe’s fiction debut (Man at the Helm, 2015); now it's 1977, and she's 15 and no longer needs to search for a partner for her fragile mother or a substitute father for herself and her siblings. These days, home includes tolerant Mr. Holt and a new baby, and Lizzie can concentrate on other distractions: school, friends, better shampoo, and—after taking a job as “auxiliary nurse” at Paradise Lodge, a home for the elderly—bodily functions and mortality. On her very first day of work (“boring, slightly exciting and briefly horrible”), Lizzie glimpses a corpse in the morgue (“I’d seen a dead man’s toe”) and will later experience the demises of several more patients. (Elvis, Marc Bolan, and Maria Callas also meet their ends in this volume.) Meanwhile, her role at the Lodge includes assisting the elderly clients, helping them (frequently) to the bathroom, and weathering the peculiar comings and goings of patients and staff alike. Stibbe’s deadpan first-person delivery once again balances quirky charm with beady insight while this new chapter in Lizzie’s life introduces a larger community of characters. As in the earlier book, the plot is episodic, charting upsets in the lives of the kindly and the kooky, underpinned by Lizzie’s search for some kind of momentum and meaning. Looser and less unified than the first book until near the end, the novel closes on a celebratory note, knitting multiple loose ends together and propelling frequent-truant Lizzie back to school to fulfill her potential as “an intellect-ual.”

Another deft helping of absurd social comedy and unconventional wisdom from a writer of singular, decidedly English gifts.

Pub Date: July 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-30931-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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