NORTH RIVER

Hamill the realist prevails (mostly) over the sentimentalist in this above-average entertainment.

Hamill (Forever, 2002, etc.) returns with a gritty Depression-era story about a grief-stricken doctor rejuvenated by an unwelcome challenge: raising his small grandson.

New Year’s Day, 1934: New York is buried under snow. Dr. Jim Delaney, middle-aged, Irish, is summoned to treat Eddie Corso, a mobster shot in a gang war. Delaney and Eddie were in the trenches in France in 1918; the doctor would never forsake him. He gives his friend a morphine shot and smuggles him into the hospital for surgery. When he returns to his home in downtown Manhattan, he finds a boy he’s never seen before; there’s a note from his teenage daughter Grace, pleading for him to take care of two-year-old Carlito; she’s off to Spain to look for her husband, a Mexican revolutionary. Delaney is furious with Grace, the only child he spoiled rotten, in an effort to make amends for his absence in France. His wife Molly never did forgive his volunteering to be a medic; 16 months before she had walked toward the river, never to return. Delaney has been on autopilot ever since as he attends scrupulously to his poverty-stricken patients and makes house calls. Carlito could be the last straw, but the doctor rallies with the help of Rose, an attractive Sicilian immigrant he hires to run his new household. Meanwhile, Eddie’s gangland rival is demanding to know Eddie’s whereabouts. Carlito must be protected, from the patients’ germs inside and prowling mobsters outside. Trying times, but the upside is that Delaney comes alive again, enchanted by Carlito and strongly attracted to the indispensable Rose. Hamill’s story continues strong up to the halfway point, when he runs out of plot. Delaney and Rose eventually become lovers, though Rose seems more at home in the kitchen than the bedroom. Better realized than the lovers is a vanished New York, with its appalling proneness to disease, its rough streets and hectic pleasures.

Hamill the realist prevails (mostly) over the sentimentalist in this above-average entertainment.

Pub Date: June 11, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-34058-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2007

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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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