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BEGGAR'S FEAST

Prepare for a verbal feast that will thoroughly entertain and satisfy, yet leave you hungering for more.

Boyagoda’s (Governor of the Northern Province, 2006) historical tale about a man who strives to avenge his past is a savory delight.

When a young boy is born into an impoverished family in British-occupied Ceylon in 1899, his parents, convinced that he’s bad luck, abandon him near a monastery. Humiliated by rejection and abused by a monk, the boy runs away, travels to Colombo and reinvents himself as Sam Kandy. There, he becomes one of the many street urchins who scrabble for survival. But Sam is fueled by more than just the need to survive. He’s embittered and driven, and he dreams of one day avenging the wrongs committed against him. He hungers for riches and recognition, certain that one day he will return to his birthplace as the most powerful man in the village. Traveling from Ceylon to Australia and Singapore and back again, he amasses and loses fortunes, but he never loses sight of his goal. Through vivid depictions of political turmoil and cultural transition during Sam’s century of life, the reader is drawn into Sam’s world by the very nature of his single-mindedness, aptly described by the author. Like him or not, Sam’s an intriguing man who’s insensitive, selfish and cowardly, and his actions—whether he’s opening a butterfly hall, leading a gang of ragamuffins, starting a shipping agency or striking a deal with Lord Mountbatten—are always calculated to give him an advantage. Sam extracts what he can from each experience as he schemes, plots and bribes his way through the early years of his life, and he ruthlessly weeds out those who threaten to get in his way, whether they are family or not. His redemptive about-face in later years adds yet another layer to a multifaceted, engrossing story.

Prepare for a verbal feast that will thoroughly entertain and satisfy, yet leave you hungering for more.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-06658-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pintail/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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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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