A SONG FOR THE ROAD

A sweet, twangy tale about a boy finding his future on the way to his past.

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A debut YA road novel tells the story of an Oklahoma teen traveling across the West with his father’s guitar.

Fifteen-year-old Carter Danforth raids his single mother’s savings in order to buy back the left-handed acoustic guitar that his father—a successful musician—pawned on the way out of town six years ago. (“ ‘Creativity, Victory, Heart, and Discipline.’ Those four words had mattered to his father, enough to have them custom-stained into the guitar. The inscription was as valuable to Carter as the guitar itself, proof his father once had some good in him.”) But a tornado strikes Tulsa while Carter is in the pawn shop, and after a night hiding in the building’s basement, he walks home only to discover that his house has been torn in two by the storm. When he finally locates his mother, she’s lying in a hospital bed. She instructs him to buy himself a plane ticket to Reno to stay with his aunt—using the money he’s already spent on the guitar, of course—but instead Carter decides to find his father in California. If he can get him to sign the guitar and increase its value, he’ll be able to pay back his mother. On the road out west, he runs into all sorts of interesting characters, including a carpenter named Darren Bartles, who teach Carter about life and music—making the instrument that he’s lugging around less a memento of his father’s departure and more a tool to express the songs inside himself. Lacko’s prose is as full of grit and color as a classic country ballad: “The old man on the stage jutted his jaw in Darren’s direction. ‘We’ve seen him before,’ he said with a voice made of velvet and gravel. ‘He’s about as useful as an ashtray on a motorcycle.’ ” Carter’s is a heartwarming tale that mostly avoids sounding sentimental, with stakes that are simultaneously kitchen table and larger-than-life. It reads like the origin story of some mythic troubadour, and one can’t help but start to feel romantic about Americana by the time Carter reaches the end of his road.

A sweet, twangy tale about a boy finding his future on the way to his past.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68463-002-8

Page Count: 243

Publisher: SparkPress

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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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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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

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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