A fast-paced medical thriller not entirely sabotaged by theatrically overwrought prose.

SANGUINITY POINT

A publicly disgraced doctor attempts to piece together a new career and finds himself inadvertently drawn into the world of organized crime. 

Dr. Benjamin Snow has a promising future; armed with an impressive academic pedigree, he’s a pediatric fellow at a prestigious Houston hospital. However, his dreams are suddenly shattered when Mr. Tepal, distraught over the hopeless condition of his “brain-dead child,” puts a gun to Benjamin’s head and orders that that he pull the boy off life support. Benjamin obliges and, in the aftermath, is cruelly hounded by sensationalist media who dub him “Young Doctor Death.” He loses his fellowship as a result of the negative publicity, though it’s never clear why anyone would hold him responsible under such extraordinary duress. (An aggressive police detective questions him zealously, confusingly accusing him of hoplophobia, a “morbid fear of firearms,” for not grabbing Mr. Tepal’s gun.) Benjamin is professionally banished to a job in Purgatory, Texas—Palmieri (The Art of Forgetting, 2013) displays an impressive breadth of literary talents in this medical thriller, but nuance isn’t one of them. Benjamin is bewildered by his new employer’s extraordinary financial success, especially given the poverty of its surrounding area. He becomes concerned about the relentless focus on profit at the practice and discovers that a nurse turned up dead after accusing one of its cardiologists of performing unnecessary surgeries. But when two of his colleagues suddenly die—and Benjamin stumbles on evidence of doctors’ connections to the drug trafficking underworld—he fearfully wonders what exactly he signed up for. The author packs the story with all the right ingredients: artfully crafted suspense, a morally complex protagonist, and a generous portion of action skillfully described. However, those virtues are often undermined by hokey or soap opera–ish melodrama. At one point, Benjamin’s boss, Dr. Soto-Prinz, brandishing a “Spanish conquistador dagger,” menacingly orders him to eat charcuterie, a clumsy way of revealing his despotic character. The novel remains an enjoyably easy read as long as one doesn't take it too seriously. 

A fast-paced medical thriller not entirely sabotaged by theatrically overwrought prose.

Pub Date: Dec. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-973537-23-6

Page Count: 402

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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