by Paul Hond ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 1, 1998
A debut novel that transforms the terror of working-class, inner-city race relations into an upbeat examination of love, loss, and father-son bonding. Set in Baltimore, Hond’s appraisal of the cultural and economic barriers that isolate blacks and Jews recalls the bitter urban tragedies of Dreiser and Malamud. Mickey Lerner, a robust, sixtysomething Jewish bakery store owner, is alienated from his wife, Emi, a French-born concert violinist who no longer sees in him the integrity that once attracted her. Meanwhile, their 18-year-old underachieving son, Ben, spends most of his time smoking dope with Nelson Childs, the bakery’s delivery boy, who just bought his first illegal handgun from a street-corner junkie. After a hundred pages of meandering flashbacks, often ending in alleys as dark as the decaying neighborhoods that Hond clearly loves, we learn that Mickey, at Ben’s age, coulda-been-a-contenda as a boxer, but gave it up to run the store after his baker father died of a heart attack; that Mickey’s last bout was against Nelson’s father, who eventually abandoned his family; and that Mickey has harbored an earthy but unconsummated sexual attraction for Donna, Nelson’s mother, ever since. The story takes off when Mickey and Emi are robbed on the street by a pair of masked black youths, one of whom panics and kills Emi. At first, the tragedy makes everything worse: Grief-stricken Mickey takes off for Paris in search of secrets in his wife’s past, leaving Ben in charge of the bakery. And as a boss, Ben can’t cope with Nelson, who buckles under the humiliating treatment he gets from bigoted customers and falls in with his criminal buddies. Fortunately, though, Hond wisely doesn’t let his tale lurch to a violent climax but, instead, lets his characters find each other again as they uncover their hidden strengths. A bright Beaujolais of a book: fresh, optimistic, and sophisticated enough to satisfy on many levels.
Pub Date: April 1, 1998
Page Count: 368
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1998
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by Hanya Yanagihara ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 10, 2015
The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.
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National Book Award Finalist
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
Page Count: 720
Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015
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by Harper Lee ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 11, 1960
A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.
Pub Date: July 11, 1960
Page Count: 323
Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960
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