A HOUSE OF SECRETS

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1991

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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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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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