Good, if muffled by an overcomplicated structure and a talky narrator.


Members of an Indian immigrant family in upstate New York struggle with their individual fates and burdens over two decades.

This novel opens by setting two scenes: in 1985, a boy named Kiran Shah is spying on his neighbors across the road, the Bells, hinting at traumatic events that have transpired in the recent past and others that will occur in the future; and in 1998, in western India, Kiran, now a young adult visiting relatives, meets two members of the transgender caste, hijras, who come to the door. All of this will be spun out in succeeding sections that move back and forth in time and place to follow several narrative threads. Dominating the early part of the book are the troubled connections between the Shahs and the Bells, which include both the adults and the children. Shanti Shah, unhappy in an arranged marriage and demeaning jobs as a housecleaner and a bank teller, is powerfully drawn to the blond pastor who lives across the way—and he’s interested in her, too. Her daughter, Preeti, dates Shawn Bell, a boy who ends up sexually abusing both Shah children in incidents that resonate through the book, affecting the siblings' relationship and Kiran’s coming-of-age as a gay man. The title of the novel refers to the notion that in another world, different choices might have been made, different lives might have played out—but there is no other world. That may be so, but the book’s very omniscient narrator spends a lot of time telling us what didn’t happen, what the characters aren’t thinking, didn’t notice, or can’t know yet. This commentary ultimately begins to smudge the sharpness of what does happen. Mehta’s (Quarantine, 2011) ambitious novel follows a well-received collection of short stories; he is a writer worth watching.

Good, if muffled by an overcomplicated structure and a talky narrator.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-202046-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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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