Readers who like quaint Lake Wobegon–esque narratives will enjoy rooting for the residents of Alpine Valley as they...


Determined to save their small mill town from disaster, the resolute residents of Alpine Valley set a clever ruse into motion in veteran television writer Crehan’s debut novel.

Norman Rockwell couldn’t have painted a better setting than Alpine Valley, population 581, elevation 8,467 feet. Superficially, everything looks idyllic in this quaint Pacific Northwest mill town. Scratch the veneer, however, and a more somber situation is revealed: The closure of the local mill has led to an erosion of the tax base, and the town’s debts are running dangerously high. Nobody understands the severity of the situation better than local realtor and mother of two Annie LaPeer, who’s also the town’s mayor. Forced to figure out a way out of the morass, she and the town’s residents decide to fall back on legend. If the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot can still attract enthusiastic gawkers, they reason, why not resuscitate the story of the Alpine Valley Ape? Sure, nobody in recent memory has seen the monster, but everybody knows somebody who swears he has. Soon people in town create a masterful video, apparently showing the primate in action. It goes viral, and the town gets just what it wants: an avalanche of tourists and their dollars. Unfortunately, the situation also brings fresh complications, which the denizens of Alpine Valley must now solve. Crehan ably uses his clear, well-defined characters to present various moral arguments in this promising young-adult mystery. Although the townsfolk occasionally veer into caricature, they add plenty of color to the proceedings. Most of the story is told in the first person by Annie’s daughter, Melissa LaPeer, and she often threatens to derail the plotline with constant attention-getting devices: “This is a particularly important chapter because particularly important things happen in it, and I’m a little fearful that I won’t be able to get these things across to you as well as I really must.” Whimsical at first, these asides become annoying after a while, and a less self-indulgent voice might have better served the novel’s purpose. The plot also slows down halfway through before finally roaring back into action.

Readers who like quaint Lake Wobegon–esque narratives will enjoy rooting for the residents of Alpine Valley as they valiantly struggle to hang on to a fast-fading way of life.

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0615981079

Page Count: 314

Publisher: Boda Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2014

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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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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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