Another divine jacket image will undoubtedly move books off the shelves, but this is pretty thin stuff for all but the most...

YA-YAS IN BLOOM

More helpings of southern-fried sisterhood.

Actually, in this third set of snapshots from the lives of four Louisiana friends (Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, 1997, etc.), the men get the final epiphanies. But since these consist of politically correct nostrums like “masculine love . . . is not about power. It is not about judging. It is about a quiet calm, a quiet love,” it’s clear that girls still rule. For those who have been panting to know how the Ya-Yas first got together, Wells takes us back to 1930, when Teensy Whitman shoves a pecan up her nose and, rushed to the doctor’s office where Viviane Abbott sits with an earache, intoxicates Vivi with “a magical wink.” Bohemian Caro and good-girl Necie round out the quartet before the year is up, and the narrative then bounces around to show them as unconventional young mothers during the 1960s and cool grannies in 1994. That’s the year when Edythe Spevey, the mentally disturbed daughter of a jealous farm girl who always hated the wealthy, flamboyant Ya-Yas, snatches Necie’s three-year-old granddaughter, Rosalyn, from a video store. This scary development assorts very oddly with earlier feel-good episodes that show the Ya-Yas facing down such all-too-easy targets as Necie’s narrow-minded husband George (he doesn’t like the Beatles!) and a censorious nun (she’s shocked when Vivi’s six-year-old son brings in his mother’s garter belt for Show and Tell!). Not even a kidnapping can bring real depth to the kind of characters who call their kids “the Petites Ya-Yas” and their grandchildren “the Très Petites.” Fortunately, since Wells inclines to southern cutesiness rather than southern gothic, little Rosalyn is rescued in short order—and in plenty of time for the annual Ya-Ya Christmas party. Wells closes with a chaotic pageant that’s meant to be adorable and the stunning revelation that Judge George Ogden is actually not such a bad guy.

Another divine jacket image will undoubtedly move books off the shelves, but this is pretty thin stuff for all but the most fanatical Ya-Ya devotees.

Pub Date: April 4, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-019534-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2005

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

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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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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