An inventive but bumpy redemption tale.

A PERFECT CONFLUENCE

In this novel, a young man’s grave mistake forces him into a dangerous adventure that heals him in unexpected ways.

Noah—a recovering addict living in Buffalo, New York—has finally gotten the hang of sober living. He is gainfully employed, complying with probation requirements and exercising regularly with his faithful dog, Kimo. But just as he settles into this routine, his Uncle Bob—an imposing, ex-military caregiver figure who took over after Noah’s parents died in a car crash when he was 14 years old—requests a meeting. Bob confronts Noah for unwittingly impregnating a local Mafia family member, Lizzie Guerro. Bob insists that Noah’s only option—outside of being brutally exterminated by the Guerro family—is to “do the right thing” and marry Lizzie. Noah, devastated by the prospect of ruining his life, relapses and—while massively drunk—does something gravely impulsive that deepens his conflict with the notoriously violent Guerro family. With this, the option of marrying Lizzie becomes obliterated and Noah decides to skip town by canoe (the only way he believes he can leave surreptitiously) and keep paddling until he finds somewhere he can safely begin anew. Along the way, Noah meets 17-year-old Becca, a pregnant young woman on the run from an equally serious set of troubles. From here, the two become unlikely fugitive travel companions who encounter terrors and delights along a river odyssey that changes their lives in surprising ways. Bridgford (Where Eagles Dare Not Perch, 2018, etc.) demonstrates skillfulness when it comes to rendering suspense and twisting a scintillating plot. He also supports his creative storyline with appreciable outdoorsman knowledge, which vivifies the prose nicely throughout. That said, the canoe journey takes up the majority of the book and, after the first few chapters, begins to read as somewhat droning and repetitive. Further, some stock side characters become distracting while the dialogue—especially between male players—tends to read as tiresomely quippy. Early on, one of Noah’s pals tells him: “Make the wrong choice, my friend, and they’re gonna come at you like no shit-storm you’ve ever experienced.” Noah responds: “What if I wore my raincoat and used my big golf umbrella?”  

An inventive but bumpy redemption tale.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68433-332-5

Page Count: 307

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

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

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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

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

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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