A fast-paced, multilayered story of seaside murders separated by three centuries.

When Two Women Die

AN HISTORICAL NOVELLA OF MARBLEHEAD, TELLING OF TWO MURDERS WHICH HAPPENED THERE, 301 YEARS APART

Two women murdered in Marblehead, Massachusetts, 301 years apart—one in 1690 and the other in 1991—would seem to have nothing in common, but Goodwin ties both together in her novella.

Goodwin (Atlantis, 2006) deftly toggles between both murders. The first involves an unknown English woman who was taken ashore by pirates in 1690 and savagely abused and murdered. The second occurred in 1991; a woman went for an afternoon’s sail with a neighbor who ended up killing her. In both tales, the author establishes a strong undercurrent of tension and horror, which upsets the daily activities—breadmaking in the 17th century and filmmaking in the 20th—of this normally placid coastal town. Marblehead is a palpable presence here; Goodwin infuses the book with the maritime influences of the area without turning it into a travelogue. Supernatural elements, used sparingly but effectively, occur in both storylines. In one, a character has prophetic dreams, and in the other, a woman can see into the future. Occasionally, and this is a minor quibble, Goodwin relies too heavily on dialect in the dialogue, such as: “Oooh, never will Lizzie ‘low my rise in w’ her’n, now t’is sticks n’ stones to break thy teeth on.” It makes the characters sometimes hard to understand. Usually, however, Goodwin’s prose is sharp and descriptive, invoking vivid word pictures: “Karen stepped over her, agile and light as a cat, with her long, coppery legs in frayed Patagonias.” Although it frequently switches back and forth between the narratives, the novel coheres. The result is a suspenseful book in which both stories hurtle to their tragic conclusions.

A fast-paced, multilayered story of seaside murders separated by three centuries.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0615587240

Page Count: 162

Publisher: Plum Press

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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