A story that offers an immersive, complicated international experience, although it does so in an unhurried way.


Debut author Patel presents a novel about an Indian woman’s international search for answers.

The story begins in July 2008 in Karjat, India. Tara Amin’s mother has recently died “in the pale blue shadow of the lunar eclipse” there, and, even though Tara has recently been living in New York City, she was still very close to her mother emotionally. Tara has a host of fond memories about her as well as about another deceased family member, her great-aunt Mayyaji. The former was simply “practical,” while the latter “possessed…cosmic power” and could heal with her touch. There are many formalities that Tara needs to attend to in Karjat in the wake of her parent’s death, and she also spends a lot of time reflecting on the past and, specifically, her relationship with her mother and Mayyaji. A large section of the novel is devoted to Tara’s 1980s diaries, which reflect on how Mayyaji made her understand “the true magic that life is.” She also has a feeling that her mother’s spirit is trying to communicate with her. Of course, there’s also plenty waiting for Tara when she gets back to New York, where she runs an art gallery called Moon Goddess with her dear friend May. Tara’s boyfriend, Mike, is an English professor whose “life outside his work certainly lacked imagination.” After their relationship dissolves, Tara strikes up a new one with a Lebanese-American photographer named Rachid, who follows no religion and instead “worship[s] the elements.” He takes Tara back to Lebanon with him, where he takes photographs and attempts to unravel mysteries from his own family’s past. In this way, readers travel to disparate countries and encounter a host of characters, some more distinct than others. Questions abound in the narrative: will Mike ever get over his breakup with Tara? Will Moon Goddess survive the 2008 recession? Why is Rachid’s mother so eager to befriend Tara? Why is Tara’s mother’s spirit trying to contact her? However, the book shines brightest in the details of its many settings. From Achrafiye (a district in Beirut) to Zeding (in Tibet), there are descriptions of landscapes, such as the “luminous blue water” of Yamdroktso Lake; of foodstuffs, such as the “bittersweet coffee” of Lebanon; and of many other items. Readers are told about New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood, which was once host to longshoremen “embroiled in corruption,” as well as the story of the seemingly anachronistic housing of Grove Court in Greenwich Village. Such intriguing explanations add to the novel’s high page count of more than 600 pages, but it’s also lengthened by frequently unnecessary dialogue and exposition that may test readers’ patience—as when multiple characters talk about opening bottles of wine before doing so or when readers are told, instead of shown, that “Tara was impatient for answers.” Overall, though, the story explores engaging destinations, even if getting to them can be a cumbersome process.

A story that offers an immersive, complicated international experience, although it does so in an unhurried way.

Pub Date: July 27, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5446-8419-2

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Loose Moose Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2018

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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 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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