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FALLING THROUGH TIME

A WOMAN'S JOURNEY TO THE FUTURE

Part Back to the Future with slivers of an Inconvenient Truth, Frank’s debut science-fiction novel starts with a fatal accident and ends with social and environmental responsibility.

A successful advertising executive, 42-year-old Summer has had over a dozen years of stressful board meetings, aggressive negotiations and an impressive winning streak of international accounts. But her high-octane life plummets out of control as subordinates conspire, and memory lapses make her the target of office gossip. She needs a break, a true holiday and rejuvenation. At her boss’ request, Summer books a hiking trip to Alaska, intent on climbing cliffs and rediscovering her inner tiger. As night sets over the terrain, her mind wanders and her footing fails. She stumbles into a crevasse, where her body remains in ice for more than 70 years. With a stellar opening and the naturally compelling question of “what happens next?”, the novel unravels the intricate details of Summer’s second life after she is found and revived from the snowcaps. Her old world is dead, wiped away by human wars and natural disasters. People have retreated into the wild, carving out small villages that live sustainably close to the land. Food is grown in gardens, and communities function as families. Summer struggles in this world where no one keeps secrets, fast food is extinct and love begins to thaw her cold heart. While the first three chapters show great promise in terms of pacing and prose, conflict and science-fictional aspects of the story fall to the wayside. Readers will ask themselves why certain characters are introduced in detail and then simply dropped from the narrative. At several points, the story analyzes humanity’s culpability in its own demise. For pages, Frank dispenses a dissertation of synthetic foods, artificial preservatives, pollution and even the idea of “latchkey kids.” As a result, the story resembles a lengthy lecture of humanity’s irresponsible behavior rather than an exploratory journey through time. While science fiction often touches on these themes, this book lacks the dramatic drive of other futuristic tales. With an honorable message of sustainability and a compelling opening sequence, the book struggles to deliver the sense of wonder and discovery that often defines this genre.

 

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0615530369

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Vibrant Village Media

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2012

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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THE RUMOR

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Hilderbrand’s latest cautionary tale exposes the toxic—and hilarious—impact of gossip on even the most sophisticated of islands.

Eddie and Grace Pancik are known for their beautiful Nantucket home and grounds, financed with the profits from Eddie’s thriving real estate company (thriving before the crash of 2008, that is). Grace raises pedigreed hens and, with the help of hunky landscape architect Benton Coe, has achieved a lush paradise of fowl-friendly foliage. The Panciks’ teenage girls, Allegra and Hope, suffer invidious comparisons of their looks and sex appeal, although they're identical twins. The Panciks’ friends the Llewellyns (Madeline, a blocked novelist, and her airline-pilot husband, Trevor) invested $50,000, the lion’s share of Madeline’s last advance, in Eddie’s latest development. But Madeline, hard-pressed to come up with catalog copy, much less a new novel, is living in increasingly straightened circumstances, at least by Nantucket standards: she can only afford $2,000 per month on the apartment she rents in desperate hope that “a room of her own” will prime the creative pump. Construction on Eddie’s spec houses has stalled, thanks to the aforementioned crash. Grace, who has been nursing a crush on Benton for some time, gives in and a torrid affair ensues, which she ill-advisedly confides to Madeline after too many glasses of Screaming Eagle. With her agent and publisher dropping dire hints about clawing back her advance and Eddie “temporarily” unable to return the 50K, what’s a writer to do but to appropriate Grace’s adultery as fictional fodder? When Eddie is seen entering her apartment (to ask why she rented from a rival realtor), rumors spread about him and Madeline, and after the rival realtor sneaks a look at Madeline’s rough draft (which New York is hotly anticipating as “the Playboy Channel meets HGTV”), the island threatens to implode with prurient snark. No one is spared, not even Hilderbrand herself, “that other Nantucket novelist,” nor this magazine, “the notoriously cranky Kirkus.”

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-33452-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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