THE DOORMAN

An affecting parable of a modern knight-errant's search for the ``true door to happiness,'' and the first story by the late Cuban writer and exile Arenas (The Palace of the White Skunks, 1990, etc.) to be set in the US. Young Juan, a refugee from Cuba, is the doorman of a Manhattan apartment house—home to a disappointed and eclectic group of men and women, and to their even more unhappy pets. There are, among others: an aging leftist who keeps a polar bear to serve her (when she isn't in Cuba buying desperate young men with cheap trinkets); a suicidal young woman, beloved by Juan, whose pet is a rattlesnake; an impotent and aging lover-boy whose pet orangutan helps him out on dates; the nearly identical gay couple Oscar One and Two, with their terrified rabbit and fierce bulldog; the Supreme Pastor of the Church of Love through Constant Contact and his menagerie; and the millionaire family that owns the remarkable dog Cleopatra. As Juan opens the door for them and their pets, he always tries to please, hoping that they may know of the door he is looking for. His helpfulness is increasingly abused, and poor Juan despairs. But Cleopatra and the other animals have been watching him, and they appoint him their leader. Thought now to be mad, Juan is consigned to a psychiatric ward, but the animals rescue him and together set off across the country to California, where they find the doors to the lands and waters of their dreams. But Juan—the ``only hope'' and ``great weapon'' of outsiders and the persecuted—can find no door. The parallels to Arenas's own life are obvious, but this richly imagined story—often witty despite the tragic undertones- -transcends such limits as it celebrates the defender of ideals, Juan the doorman. A fine memorial.

Pub Date: June 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-8021-1109-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1991

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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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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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