A thoughtful, observant, and often humorous tale about real connections.


In this literary novel, family secrets, friendship, and the resilience of love play out in a dinner party between two couples.

As this story opens in London, Eva Polk (née Harper) reacts with glee to news of a relative’s death, which exposes a big secret she’s kept from her husband of 10 years, Adam. The reasons are explained in the following chapters tracing Eva’s childhood, her father’s remarriage, her friendship with Karen Armstrong, her stellar success in the advertising business, and meeting and marrying Adam, who becomes a successful artist. Shared tastes and mutual passion overcome their differing backgrounds. Eva is white, Adam is of mixed race and adopted; Adam’s father is a plumber, while Eva’s was senior partner in a top-tier accountancy firm. Marriage doesn’t dull their feelings: “Every day they told each other that they loved each other every day more.” After 10 years, they start thinking about children, but Eva’s infertility makes them decide to adopt. At a dinner party with Karen and her husband, Jean-Claude, several truths surface, including an important secret Eva has been keeping. But Adam doesn’t focus on the injury to him; rather, he sees the secret as something she “had borne heavily…from now on Adam wanted her to know that he was bearing it with her—with, not against her,” a sentence that beautifully encapsulates what love is. As in his previous novels, Cacoyannis (Bowl of Fruit (1907), 2015, etc.) uses his familiarity with London, its various subcultures, and the art world to good effect. The themes of adoption and stepparents, as well as the mixed-race characters, reflect the way people live now. At times, and despite Eva’s secrets, the couple can seem too good and too fortunate to be true; apart from a brief episode of Eva’s “melancholia,” they have amazing sex every day. Nevertheless, the author draws forth their layered humanity. The book’s seriousness is relieved, complicated, and strengthened by its trenchant observations of horrible people, along with black humor involving Eva’s dead relative, a rare 1970s biscuit tin, and the wooden sculpture of a bleeding vagina.

 A thoughtful, observant, and often humorous tale about real connections.

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5202-4685-7

Page Count: 237

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2017

Did you like this book?

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 10

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • National Book Award Finalist


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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet