Rich with period detail, an elegant, character-driven novel about the clash of cultures that forged the Lone Star spirit....

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THE TEXICANS

In a story as vast and action-packed as Texas itself, Vida (The End of Marriage, 2002, etc.) follows four strangers who join forces during the lawless years of early statehood.

During the early 1850s, despite rumors of Comanche attacks, settlers are pouring into the new state of Texas. Some, like Aurelia Ruíz, a Mexican widow who possesses healing powers, and Luck, a slave on the run from Tennessee, have no resources save their courage and wits. Others, such as 19-year-old Katrin, have put their faith in an Alsatian Jew named Henry Castro, who promises to build them a new city. Only Joseph, a Polish Jew from St. Louis, wants nothing from Texas except to settle his dead brother’s estate in San Antonio and move on. But when he stops to help the injured Luck, who in turn steals his horse, Joseph is stranded. To the rescue rides the caravan of Europeans led by Castro, en route to the land on which he intends to found Castroville. Resting with them before continuing his journey, Joseph learns that Comanche chief Ten Elk intends to kidnap Katrin. At Castro’s urging, Joseph consents to wed the young woman and take her away. Their wedding day is disrupted by the renegade Texas Rangers, who are losing their authority as government begins to be established in the state. With them is Luck, found sleeping near the Rangers, who intend to hang him. Joseph intervenes, thanking the troop’s suspicious captain for reuniting him with the slave he lost on the plains. Joseph, Katrin and Luck set off to homestead on their own, somewhere far from their enemies. The three become four when Joseph meets the beguiling Aurelia, who works in a shantytown kitchen making tortillas for soldiers.

Rich with period detail, an elegant, character-driven novel about the clash of cultures that forged the Lone Star spirit. Should be required reading in the contemporary immigration debate.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-56947-434-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2006

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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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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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