This tale about a state’s political uprising will likely inspire both incredulity and smiling approval.

The Cleaning Crew

A debut political novel focuses on a revolution that intends to wrest power in Massachusetts from corrupt officials.

Best friends Matt Greenhill and Jeremy Boatman, both in their 60s, have no shortage of cantankerous complaints about politics in their native state of Massachusetts. Successful businessmen at the ends of their careers (Matt is already retired), they decide they simply can’t suffer the steady decline of their state anymore and pledge to do something about it. A few years earlier, Matt had drawn up a plan to take over the state and reform it, a plan based upon creating a group (they both resist the label “party”) from whose ranks they will replace existing politicians and bureaucrats. Membership in the group is largely nonpartisan, though everyone who joins must accept a nine-point platform of reform. The most controversial core ideas include enacting educational reform by diminishing the power of teachers’ unions, legalizing and therefore controlling drug and prostitution trades, and abolishing criminal gangs (while also disarming the police somehow). The grand plan requires a near total commandeering of government to work—Matt and Jeremy plan to control both houses of the legislature and the lion’s share of bureaucratic agencies. At first, the entrenched Democratic Party reacts dismissively (the attorney general immediately calls them Nazis), but as the group, which comes to be known as the “Cleaning Crew,” steadily grows in popularity, the establishment fights back with savage territoriality. Members of the Crew are indicted on fraudulent charges, sued for libel and slander by officials accused of corruption, find their offices broken into, and worse. Hayes, a Massachusetts native and lawyer, concocts a kind of political fantasy whereby a popular uprising is conducted by responsible experts beneficently motivated only by altruism. The idealism that drives the story is extraordinary; when challenged by a political editor, asking why the group should be taken seriously, Matt declares: “We will choose people with the expertise and know-how, and then we’ll provide them with the support, the funding, and the motivation to accomplish the change needed.” This is a lively, and often very funny, novel and will certainly appeal, in a cathartic way, to those who pine for a fresh political start. Its strength is certainly not its plausibility or the incessant proselytizing of its two protagonists; rather, the book’s principal virtue is its optimism regarding the power of democracy, unabashedly expressed.

This tale about a state’s political uprising will likely inspire both incredulity and smiling approval.

Pub Date: April 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5246-0388-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2016

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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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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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