Overly sentimental fare that will probably find some readers to cherish it as a spiritual balm.

SAINTS IN LIMBO

An inspirational message drives this story about an elderly widow, a magic rock and some transformed lives.

Since the death of her beloved husband Joe, Velma True’s hold on life has become precarious. She won’t even venture to her mailbox since finding his death certificate there. So the visit of a mysterious stranger to her little house outside Echo, a small town in the Florida panhandle, comes just in time. The nameless ancient who can “brush his fingers through the stars” gives her a small rock that changes colors, emits heat and light and offers a limited form of time travel. Briefly, Velma is back with Joe in the first year of their marriage, thinking: “This moment is forever and always.” Though the rock is benevolent, possession is not risk-free. There are bad actors out there, fallen angels who will try to steal it. Jordan’s previous novel, The Messenger of Magnolia Street (2006), featured the same good vs. evil conflict, but this follow-up is neither as well-written nor as persuasive. Velma must confront her irrational guilt over the four miscarriages following the difficult birth of her only son, Rudy, who has his own problems to work through. He’s a bed-hopping ladies’ man, movie-star handsome, unambitious, singing cheerfully as he delivers the mail on his rural route. He has yet to fulfill his potential and give Velma more than a careless love. Jordan packages a folksy small-town world of timeless rhythms, then adds a guitar-toting teenage runaway on a mission that will take her to Velma’s house and two lonely retirees who take off for Africa. Lurking in the shadows are evil, shapeless things, more laughable than fearsome, the weakest link in Jordan’s chain. Not to worry: Velma and Rudy will get the message (“No regrets”) and become new people, at peace with themselves.

Overly sentimental fare that will probably find some readers to cherish it as a spiritual balm.

Pub Date: May 19, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-30744-670-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: WaterBrook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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