In a finely wrought third novel from Gadol (The Mystery Roast, 1992, etc.), a young man whose longtime lover has recently died of AIDS tries to rebuild his life in a remote southern California canyon. After his lover dies, Brad Gray drifts from Manhattan to California, house-sitting his way across the country until, outside of Los Angeles, he finds a long-term gig at the top of Encantado Canyon. Aimless even before his lover's death, his one vague reason for heading West had been to drown himself in the Pacific, but once in California, he becomes fascinated by a young married couple he spies across the canyon. By themselves, Helen and Ethan Zayne are rebuilding the house they lost in a Ventura fire the year before. Inevitably, Brad is drawn to the two, who not only lost their home but, shortly before that, their three-year-old son. Having once aspired to be an architect himself, Brad winds up pitching in to help the Zaynes build a house that could save their marriage: ``It was the only way for them to get their life back, to reconstruct it themselves, with their own hands.'' And by working with the Zaynes, the still-grieving Brad gives himself a chance to rise from the ashes. In the telling, Gadol weaves together images of reconstruction and regeneration—of the land, buildings, and peoplein prose that's at its most evocative and powerful in describing the scarred landscapes and the subtle interplay that takes place among the damaged characters. All three have self- destructive tendencies, and, even as they're house-building, they're only a splinter away from torching their salvation. In a summer of record heat, Helen and Brad further jeopardize their lives by breaking into other houses simply to be in air conditioning. And when the fire season flares up again, all three are literally forced to choose between life and death. A multi-storied, strongly written novel of loss and renewal.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-312-14084-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1995

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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