There’s little joy to be found in this tale of a doomed family, flavored with myth and fairy tale, yet the poetic narration...

THE GIRL FROM THE GARDEN

Reminiscing in her Los Angeles garden, an elderly woman pieces together the tragedy of her ancestors’ Iranian Jewish household, in which the actions of two brothers “who would sacrifice anything for one another” result in sorrow for three wives.

Foroutan’s lyrical debut offers a mosaic of stories evoking life within a wealthy Jewish home in Kermanshah, Iran, in earlier times. Although Asher Malacouti has spun the money inherited from his father into a fortune, his success has only made his desperation for a son and heir all the more urgent. This is a world of deeply traditional roles, where a wife’s security depends on her fertility, so as time passes and Asher’s young wife, Rakhel, fails to conceive, tensions rise. Rakhel is forced to accept Asher’s decision to take a second wife, Kokab, but it drives her into a terrible suicidal episode. Then Kokab—divorced by her first husband and forcibly separated from her daughter—fails to conceive, too. Through the ghostly voices of this unhappy home, with brothers Asher and Ibrahim at its center and the womenfolk circling them like satellites, the disastrous history is slowly reassembled. The repository of these stories is Mahboubeh Malacouti, Ibrahim’s daughter, who left Iran in 1977 but who has memories of Rakhel, a harsh, vindictive woman, although none at all of her own mother. All Mahboubeh knows is what Ibrahim told her, that her mother “died from the complications of womanhood.” Deftly structured, this novel traces those complications to their core, exposing the pain, oppressive forces, and difficult allegiances within and without the estate, while lending grace through the delicacy of its observation.

There’s little joy to be found in this tale of a doomed family, flavored with myth and fairy tale, yet the poetic narration overlays the suffering with surprising beauty.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-238838-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

Did you like this book?

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more