Nash treads deftly into archetypal territory.


A dutiful son helps his increasingly demented father make his last life transition, into a nursing home, despite their uneasy relationship.

European in feel, Nash’s (The Life and Times of Moses Jacob Ezekiel, 2014) novel unspools nonchronological layers of memory, spreading out from a single day, as David Ansky assists his irascible father, Jacob, who recently assaulted his maid, move from his Florida apartment to a care facility. Jacob—himself the son of Joseph Ansky, “professional Communist, imperious foreign editor for the Daily Worker”—is a retired Russian history professor who taught at Cornell and wrote a book on Trotsky. While, in the here and now, David sorts Jacob’s belongings, sooths his rants, and gentles him along the last lap of a none-too-happy life, filaments of the past unfurl and connect, offering glimpses of David’s childhood; his failed marriage; his choice of career, in part a repudiation of his father’s dry academia and barren politics. There’s a Sebald-ian flavor to this melancholy web of recollections, regrets, vignettes, infidelities, and mood moments, colored with intellectual and historical detail and some archaic vocabulary—“oppugning,” “sesquipedalian,” “impetrates.” And, occasionally, the story switches point of view from David’s resigned practicality to Jacob’s cacophony of sights, smells, and flickering thoughts. Nash’s composed tapestry of a family is delicate and poetic, although it accrues meaning more from the accumulation of episodes than penetration of character. There’s a late squall of melodramatic confrontation—“When I look at you now…all I can do is weep.” “I didn’t want to end up like you”—but the concluding mood is sweetly generous in its acknowledgement of generational love and loss.

Nash treads deftly into archetypal territory.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-944388-11-9

Page Count: 227

Publisher: Fomite

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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