Captain John C. FrÇmont's 1845 topographical expedition to California and the US war with Mexico serve as the backdrops for an engaging tale of a young America's westering imperatives. Soon after joining the force gathering along the Arkansas River for FrÇmont's third trek west of the 100th meridian, Bradford Stone, a young Harvard grad with mapmaking skills and artistic gifts, is befriended by Kit Carson, his boyhood idol. Before their journey starts, the legendary trapper takes him home to Taos, where he meets and falls in love with Ana Barrag†n, the spirited daughter of a local grandee. Though promised to Luis Aragon, a new amigo of Brad's, she reciprocates his ardor, and he unwittingly leaves lovely Ana great with child. On the trail with Carson and FrÇmont, the greenhorn proves his mettle in deadly clashes with marauding Indians. After much adventure and hardship, the half-starved explorers reach California, which is awash in rumors that the US and Mexico are at war. Under the command of FrÇmont, Brad participates in the Bear Flag Rebellion and other comic-opera campaigns. Sent back east with dispatches after more than a year in the wilderness, he learns his beloved Ana (who was hastily married off to Luis) has died in mysterious circumstances along with her infant son. Although heartbroken, he accepts a post as aide to the military governor of New Mexico. Brad also renews acquaintance with Luis and, at the risk of his life, rides hell for leather out of Santa Fe to warn Taos of an upcoming revolt. He plays a role in suppressing this bloody insurrection and has a final confrontation with Don Bernardo Barrag†n, one its leaders. Zollinger (Chapultepec, 1995, etc.) brings his characters- -especially the estimable Carson and charismatic FrÇmont—to vivid life in a historical setting suffused in violence and romance. A fine tale of Americans along their way toward manifest destiny.

Pub Date: June 27, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-86131-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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