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THE GOOD PRIEST’S SON

For all its incidental charms, one of Price’s lesser novels, scattered and indecisive.

Death hovers over an anxious homecoming in the venerable southern writer’s 14th novel.

Mabry Kincaid is flying back home from Europe to New York on September 11, 2001, when his plane is diverted to Nova Scotia. It will be days before the 53-year-old art conservator finds out whether his loft, just blocks from the Twin Towers, is still intact. On impulse Mabry returns to his family home in North Carolina, where his father, a retired Episcopalian priest, is in bad shape. Price (Noble Norfleet, 2002, etc.) lures the reader with a number of maybes rather than a plot. Tasker Kincaid may be at death’s door; son Mabry may be diagnosed soon with multiple sclerosis; the painting he collected in Paris for a WTC client (now presumed dead) may conceal a priceless van Gogh sketch. Only one of these matters gets resolved. Tasker at least is in good hands, tended by Audrey and her teenaged son, Marcus, black folks long linked to the Kincaids. But who will tend to Mabry, who’s experiencing temporary blindness and numbness? His wife died back in April, and he’s estranged from daughter Charlotte. That’s Mabry’s fault; he cheated on his wife so often she threw him out when Charlotte was 12. But his faults don’t keep self-pity from welling up, especially after Tasker admits that his greatest love was for Mabry’s brother, Gabriel, killed years before in a hunting accident. Very much in the Price mold, this is a tale of family ties, broken but partially restored, of confessions and reconciliations. It’s not only Mabry who couldn’t keep his pants zipped: Tasker confesses to once taking advantage of three female parishioners; young Marcus confesses to impregnating his cousin at age 15. Yet the churning emotions lack a strong narrative framework, and Mabry’s hand-wringing over his possible MS symptoms becomes tedious, as does the warmed-over angst following 9/11, including a scene close to Ground Zero.

For all its incidental charms, one of Price’s lesser novels, scattered and indecisive.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-5400-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2005

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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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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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