THE ARCHITECT'S SUICIDE

A FICTIONAL ACCOUNT

Subjective perspectives in a fictionalized portrait of a disappeared architect.
Beckley’s debut details the life of architect Robert A. Michael, who disappeared and possibly committed suicide. Michael embodied the ego and genius of modernism, but also its uncompromising excess. With an almost megalomaniacal personality, he ordered his life to his own specifications; when the world didn’t respond with recognition, he left it. Though his lavish lifestyle included fancy cars and incredibly expensive originals of famous furniture designs from Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, his personal life was fraught with issues: In her chapter, his first wife reveals multiple affairs; his daughter details the demands he required for the house he designed for her; he seduced his publicist; he invited a colleague to an interview seemingly in order to use her skin color to secure a project. Michael’s designs, though beautiful, required huge expense—and huge sacrifice. His love of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and its protagonist, Howard Roark, ended in disappointment as he slowly realized that the age of the heroic architects he idolized was over, steamrolled by selection committees, predatory real estate deals and weak press. By fictionalizing the narration as first-person accounts of friends, family and colleagues, Beckley provides a unique insight into Michael’s character, preferring to make him an outsider in his own story. Stylistically, Beckley achieves a kind of compromise between journalistic distance and empathy: “Robert abruptly pulled into a drive whose massive iron gates opened as if at his command. The gates closed behind us as I thought, Robert now has his prey.” However, many of the “interviews” feel inconsequential; they sometimes include various references to simple troubles, such as work complaints, while summarizing instead of creating powerful scenes: “The place I was working had really neat people who held potluck dinners every other Friday night where everyone would bring their kids and pitch in and we’d talk about what we were reading, smoke some pot, and drink cheap wine.” For much of the work, Michael’s disappearance and death feel like peripheral concerns, though many readers will find those concerns among the story’s most intriguing.
An extended human interest piece in the guise of a multiple-perspective novel, made tired by its mundane plots.

Pub Date: May 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-1491734452

Page Count: 182

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2014

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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