With shades of Monte-Cristo and Wuthering Heights: a beguiling, old-fashioned tale of desperate love and cruelty.


First-timer Yancey’s southern gothic, rich with murder, lust, tragic woman, and violent summer storms, strikes all the right chords.

The summer of 1960 is eventful for seven-year-old Shiny Parker: He sees the Pastor nearly burned alive, gets married to crazy Sharon-Rose (she insists on vows after Shiny sees her naked), and witnesses a murder. After Pastor Ned Jefferies’ house burns down, his wife Mavis and their daughter Sharon-Rose stay with the Parkers while Pastor Ned is hospitalized. Shiny’s older brother Bertram warns the boy to stay away from that peculiar Sharon-Rose; in truth, the whole house-burning incident seems mighty suspicious. Soon the two discover that clues to the worst murder case ever in Homeland, Florida, are under their very roof. Twenty years ago, dandy Walter Hughes was accused of raping Miss Mavis, and Halley Martin, strong, handsome and poor as dirt, killed Hughes to defend the love and honor of Mavis. Though they’d never formally met, Halley, working in her daddy’s orchard, secretly watched and drew Mavis every day, and from the watching grew a fierce love. Much of the story is from Halley’s perspective as he spends the next twenty years—hard ones, filled with violent suffering and told in vivid detail—in prison for Walter’s murder. With the help of the young prison chaplain, Halley learns how to write, and soon Mavis is flooded with declarations of his love, sentiments she secretly returns. The chaplain, none other than Ned Jefferies, contacts Mavis, and the fates once again turn against Halley Martin. Years pass, Halley continues writing Mavis, secretly builds up a fortune, and buys out her daddy’s plantation. On the same day Pastor Ned is released from the hospital, looking like a skinless turtle and now insane, Halley is released from prison—seeking Mavis, or revenge, or maybe both.

With shades of Monte-Cristo and Wuthering Heights: a beguiling, old-fashioned tale of desperate love and cruelty.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7432-3013-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 10

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • National Book Award Finalist


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

Did you like this book?

More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet