ELEVEN HOURS

Beat-the-clock suspense in a pedestrian kidnaping narrative. After stabs at American Gothic (Tully, 1994) and at high-brow whodunit (Red Leaves, 1996), Russian-born novelist Simons tries her hand at a mean-and-lean woman-in-periler, as far as possible from the genre’s traditional willowy divorcÇe heroines. During a last-minute spending spree in a Dallas shopping mall, Desdemona “Didi” Wood, in her ninth month of pregnancy and experiencing what she imagines are false contractions, meets Lyle Luft, a good-looking, clean-cut twentysomething fellow who gallantly offers to carry her bags. She brushes him off, then encounters him again in the mall parking lot, where the searing noontime heat, her soon-to- be-born baby, and Luft’s menacing tone make it almost impossible for her not to get into his van. Meanwhile, Didi’s husband Rich wonders why Didi stood him up for lunch. A call to Didi’s cell-phone brings out the beast in Lyle, who begins to eat, verbally abuse, and sadistically torture the poor woman. At the mall, Rich discovers Didi’s car, scattered packages, and suspicious bloodstains. The author then pulls us through predictable scenes with vacuous mall drones and skeptical cops while cross-cutting to the loudly suffering Didi and simmering psycho Lyle, who brutally assaults anyone who gets too close. Fortunately, Rich has a soulmate in stoic FBI kidnaping expert Scott Somerville, who is soon on Lyle’s trail. When Didi’s contractions begin, Lyle reveals that he is going to kill her after she gives birth and then flee with the infant to Mexico. The gory scenes that follow are made as agonizingly hideous as Simons’s spare prose will permit. Blatantly manipulative and gratuitously horrific; still, this might just be the breakout novel its author intends. (Literary Guild featured alternate/Mystery Guild selection; author tour)

Pub Date: June 18, 1998

ISBN: 0-312-18091-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1998

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 15

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

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

Did you like this book?

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

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

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

Did you like this book?

more