The former President's younger daughter follows up her bestselling Homefront and Deadfall and Kitty Kelley's Nancy Reagan with a moody, relentlessly introspective story about a moody, relentlessly introspective California girl whose career as a Serious Writer is haunted by memories of life with a brittle, humorless, ambitious, control freak of a mother and a pleasant, vague, rich, and possibly corrupt father. Of course, it would be terribly unfair to try to make this almost certain bestseller about life with a mother from hell who drives one daughter into a suicide attempt and another to early sterilization into Nancy Dearest, or to tie any of its characters with former real-life residents of the White House, since Nancy Reagan had only one moody, introspective daughter and since the pleasant, vague, possibly corrupt father here has white hair and the mean mum has red hair. The daughter with the early sterilization is the narrator Carla Tipton, whose mother seems to hate her more and more as she grows up. Carla's primary sins are her refusal to stop growing or to stop writing moody, introspective, thinly disguised autobiographical scraps of fiction. Poor Carla tries to hide the evidence of her early puberty and the scraps of fiction, but her mother Always Knows, hating her more and more, always preferring Carla's timid little sister Lily. Early sexual experimentation at the local high school lands Carla in a tiny boarding school, where she seduces the dishwasher and becomes more moody and introspective. In college she has an affair with an early but doomed ecofreak and undergoes an ecologically sound Native American herbal abortion followed by voluntary sterilization reversal and ever more distant relations with mum until, on his deathbed, dad reveals shocking family secrets known only to mum and Edward Albee. Floating in a sea of psychoanalytically induced dreams, full of naughty sex, loaded with eerie parallels to the no-longer-First Family, and dreadfully dumb. Should sell millions.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1991

ISBN: 1-55972-082-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Birch Lane Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1991

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The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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