BRIAN IN THREE SEASONS

The neatly ordered days of a gay man in New York are disrupted by his irascible father’s illness.

Grossman (Unexpected Child, 2000) follows art historian and bartender Brian Moss through the last unpleasant weeks of the life of his father Avery, a real-estate developer not mellowed by age. The senior Moss suffers a series of small strokes that alarm Brian’s twin sister Beryl, who, as a successful real-estate developer, is the son Avery wishes he had had. The philandering Avery reared the twins with the help of an African-American housekeeper after their mother was killed in an automobile accident when the children were five. Throughout his adult life, Brian has had nothing to do with his father, who has been openly contemptuous of his son’s interest in art and men. Living in almost monastic quarters in Manhattan, drawing beers for the gay clientele of The Barracks to support himself, Brian has found an outlet for his interests in art at a New Jersey community college, and sexual release in anonymous encounters at the Shackle, a bar much rougher than his own. Then, just as his father’s illness begins to disrupt the dull balance Brian has reached, he makes an unexpected emotional connection with one of those anonymous sexual contacts. The possibilities offered by that encounter, as well as revelations about his mother’s last days, help send Brian to Paris in the company of his charming young niece. And there, in the quarter glamorized by Brian’s favorite painter Toulouse-Lautrec, his life is pleasantly jostled yet again.

Deftly done.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-57962-122-8

Page Count: 238

Publisher: Permanent Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2005

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

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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