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The Art of Forgetting

An observant medical thriller with intriguing potential.

In an intriguing but uneven debut thriller framed around family secrets and a passionate love affair, a medical researcher hits a disturbing roadblock when he requests permission to test his potentially groundbreaking cure for dementia on human subjects.

Self-absorbed and womanizing, Dr. Lloyd Copeland has gotten his dementia research to a crucial stage. Success with lab animals has led to the next step: approval for human testing. Lloyd is shocked when the review board at his medical facility questions the validity of his research and an autopsy report on a test mouse indicates fatal side effects. The originator of the report proves elusive, and signs begin pointing to sabotage. Complicating the plot—and the story’s continuity and consistency—is Erin, a beautiful medical ethicist who sits on the review board. Unfortunately, a jarring sophomoric tone in Lloyd’s personal and sexual relationships weakens the narrative. For instance, after a doctor friend tosses Erin and Lloyd into his backyard pool, Erin “casually” takes off her wet clothes, continues the visit in her bra and panties, and relishes “the way she was able to fluster” Lloyd. Characters repeatedly “smirk” and “pout.” Palmieri—a practicing physician—succeeds most strongly in rendering realistic medical settings and in his evocations of time and place: “He…picked up the Styrofoam cup and sat down in a booth of white Formica, chipped and scratched with countless initials, stained with cigarette burns.” Though some descriptive phrases create an unintentionally comical effect—“He grinned at her with clenched teeth as he gaped in those bottomless emerald eyes”—peripheral characters in particular come into the plot with deft brush strokes: At a Little League game, the “air was filled with the screams of overzealous parents whose voices carried like the jeers of huffy grackles. A red headed boy in the outfield held up his mitt to shade his eyes as he craned his neck back to look at the contrails of a high flying sic jet.” With another round of editing, revelations concerning lethal machinations and the family secret that propels Lloyd’s journey toward personal and professional redemption could have packed significant punch.

An observant medical thriller with intriguing potential.

Pub Date: June 18, 2013

ISBN: 978-1484980767

Page Count: 314

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 8, 2013

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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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FIREFLY LANE

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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