A sympathetic tale of love, loss and loneliness highlighting a largely underrepresented community.

DAUGHTERS OF IRAQ

A latticework of personal tragedies and cultural history underpins Shiri-Horowitz’s debut novel about immigrant lives in Israel, translated from the Hebrew by Shira Atik.

Violet and Farida Twaina, the youngest daughters of a Jewish Iraqi family, find their lives upended during “The Exodus” in the 1940s, when Jews fled the country to escape retaliation during the creation of Israel. Abandoning a sprawling house in Baghdad, the family arrives as refugees at an Israeli transit camp and then scatters to far-flung kibbutzim. Violet and Farida remain inseparable through this time of hardship, and subsequently through marriage and the births of their children. Their lives slowly return to normalcy, but other sorrows await—the death of their beloved former playmate, Eddie; early widowhood and its attendant loneliness for Farida; and an untimely diagnosis of terminal cancer for Violet. In her final months, Violet writes a diary for her children, Noa and Guy, to ensure the family’s past stays alive. The journal forms one part of the triptych of shifting points of view that illuminate this generational saga. Farida and Noa, meanwhile, offer insight into the family’s present and future. If political betrayals scarred the older generation, Noa grapples with betrayals of a more personal nature. Her emotional journey offers a counterpoint to the family’s earlier journey from persecution. Despite its somber narrative arc, the novel is leavened with passion (above all else, for food, which is almost a fourth protagonist). The Twaina sisters’ zest for life, despite setbacks, is seen in the dying Violet’s rich evocation of the culture of Iraqi Jews and in matronly Farida’s spirited foray to a beauty salon to have her hair cut, colored and styled. Such moments offset occasionally stodgy prose and some heavy-handed exposition. These are minor flaws, however, in a novel that brims with love for a community that no longer exists, and for the women who ensure that this lost community will not be forgotten.

A sympathetic tale of love, loss and loneliness highlighting a largely underrepresented community.

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0615460796

Page Count: 284

Publisher: Horowitz

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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