A richly detailed but paint-by-numbers bildungsroman set in the Bronx.


A single early summer night serves as a young man’s proving ground in this coming-of-age novel.

The Bronx, 1960. On his 18th birthday, Joey “Hunt” Hunter plans to take Debby Ann Murphy to the prom, a first date that he hopes will lead to something more. Still haunted by the death of his brother, Toby, the bookish, Fordham-bound Hunt lacks confidence, muscles, and dancing ability—in short, all the things that might make him attractive to his outer borough female peers. Predictably, his birthday is not exactly going as planned. Hunt gets a bloody nose from his dancing partner, Sal “the Butcher” Buccarelli, in his all-male gym class. Later at the prom, Debby turns out to be much more interested in the Butcher than in Hunt. Hunt’s attention wanders, too, when he sees a vision in a blue dress: “At least she seemed like a vision, the dark-eyed girl with flowing hair and a loose easy stride crossing in front of him on the dancefloor.” Hunt doesn’t know her name, and she quickly disappears into the night. His date with Debby fizzles, so Hunt launches a new plan: to celebrate his legal drinking age by barhopping across the neighborhood. Of course, the night continues to take unexpected turns. While the threat of a dangerous gang’s rumored raid on the neighborhood percolates in the atmosphere, the Butcher’s own Brando Boys might prove to be greater trouble for Hunt and his ragtag friends. As the hours tick down to dawn, the confused and heartbroken Hunt searches for love, inspiration, and meaning among the myriad characters of the Bronx.  Cioffari (The Bronx Kill, 2017, etc.) portrays Hunt—whose ambitious plans include composing an epic poem about the neighborhood and becoming the preeminent radio DJ in the tri-state area—as a man at odds with his surroundings: “He worried that this place, this Bronx of his heritage, would never be worthy of an epic. What was there that could possibly be heroic about prom night, els, souped-up ’55 Mercs, greaser Romeo football jocks like Sal the Butcher?” Even so, it’s clear that both Hunt and the author relish the milieu, and the book drips with a sincere nostalgia for the time and place. It’s a short novel at just over 150 pages, and it in no sense overstays its welcome, pressing forward continuously at the pace of the Roddle (“part duck-walk, part shimmy and part Lindy”). Despite the many wonderful details about Hunt’s world—his job as a “Desert Rat” selling orangeade at the beach, for instance—the protagonist is a bit too much of a type to be truly compelling. This flatness extends to the supporting cast, which isn’t really all that colorful by the standards of fiction set in midcentury New York. For all of Hunt’s uncertainty, readers will have none: Everything ends up just where they expect, with very little in the way of surprises. The tale may perfectly encapsulate the way a man of Hunt’s generation looks back on his own youth, but it doesn’t make for riveting reading for those with no attachments to that time or place.

A richly detailed but paint-by-numbers bildungsroman set in the Bronx.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-60489-238-3

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Livingston Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2019

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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