An often fresh take on the collegiate anti-war movement in small-town America.

THE FOURTEENTH OF SEPTEMBER

In this debut novel, a college student on a U.S. Army nursing scholarship joins the anti–Vietnam War movement.

It’s Sept. 15, 1969, the day after Judy Talton’s 19th birthday and the day that she decides to change her path. At Central Illinois University’s student union, she sits with the radical students for the first time. After an argument between anti-war protest leader David and the ROTC kids, Judy is approached by Vida, who says she’s been watching her hanging out on the group’s fringes. Other members of the radical group emerge, including Wil, whose birthday is also Sept. 14 (which becomes important later). The group is pushing a petition supporting anti-war political-science professor Swanson, who’s in jeopardy of losing his job. There’s also anxiety about the upcoming draft lottery, which is scheduled to happen right after Thanksgiving. Instantly, Judy is swept up in the movement and takes part in the “Moratorium” event (a national day of protest against the war) and then a march in Washington, D.C. But through it all, Judy tries to keep a low profile, as protesting the war could result in her having to pay the Army back for her scholarship; she also goes to great pains to keep her Army connection a secret from her new friends. The conflict intensifies throughout the novel, particularly when Judy decides to go to Washington, which makes her AWOL: a criminal offense. Throughout, the author does a fine job of complicating and building Judy’s dilemma. The divide between Judy’s old life and her new one continues to cause her angst, which ramps up the tension regarding her various choices. What isn’t made clear, however, is why Judy initially decides to risk her scholarship, which she very much needs, in order to join the radical group. This is a symptom of a larger issue, which is the fact that Judy’s motivations are unclear, even to Judy—which, in turn, may make it difficult for readers to understand her. Still, she makes a sacrifice in a finale that’s well-crafted, surprising, and inevitable.

An often fresh take on the collegiate anti-war movement in small-town America.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63152-453-0

Page Count: 377

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: March 27, 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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Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s...

HOME FRONT

 The traumatic homecoming of a wounded warrior.

The daughter of alcoholics who left her orphaned at 17, Jolene “Jo” Zarkades found her first stable family in the military: She’s served over two decades, first in the army, later with the National Guard. A helicopter pilot stationed near Seattle, Jo copes as competently at home, raising two daughters, Betsy and Lulu, while trying to dismiss her husband Michael’s increasing emotional distance. Jo’s mettle is sorely tested when Michael informs her flatly that he no longer loves her. Four-year-old Lulu clamors for attention while preteen Betsy, mean-girl-in-training, dismisses as dweeby her former best friend, Seth, son of Jo’s confidante and fellow pilot, Tami. Amid these challenges comes the ultimate one: Jo and Tami are deployed to Iraq. Michael, with the help of his mother, has to take over the household duties, and he rapidly learns that parenting is much harder than his wife made it look. As Michael prepares to defend a PTSD-afflicted veteran charged with Murder I for killing his wife during a dissociative blackout, he begins to understand what Jolene is facing and to revisit his true feelings for her. When her helicopter is shot down under insurgent fire, Jo rescues Tami from the wreck, but a young crewman is killed. Tami remains in a coma and Jo, whose leg has been amputated, returns home to a difficult rehabilitation on several fronts. Her nightmares in which she relives the crash and other horrors she witnessed, and her pain, have turned Jo into a person her daughters now fear (which in the case of bratty Betsy may not be such a bad thing). Jo can't forgive Michael for his rash words. Worse, she is beginning to remind Michael more and more of his homicide client. Characterization can be cursory: Michael’s earlier callousness, left largely unexplained, undercuts the pathos of his later change of heart. 

Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s aftermath.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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