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

MOON GODDESS

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 best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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