WHAT SOME WOULD CALL LIES

A pair of tales that will entertain, transport, and move readers.

Two novellas introduce two protagonists yielding to long-stymied grief.

In Shoplifting, a writer named Monica Evans assumes the role of stay-at-home mother to a toddler in the sticks of Northern California. The angst of this identity shift moves Monica to more deeply process life events formerly consigned to “emotional shorthand”—namely her choice to drop out of an MFA program; the memoir she started writing then abruptly stopped; and the death of her sister, a prospective lawyer who was a troublemaker with a knack for shoplifting in a past life. This reflecting, as well as several rattling visitations from a specter, eventually causes Monica to resume her memoir by way of writing a piece on shoplifting. In doing so, she finds herself adopting a penchant for the habit that heals her in surprising ways. In Infidels, an adult named Jackie Rose recalls his wintry preteen years in suburban Minnesota against the backdrop of 1970s postwar anxiety. Jackie is the son of an alcoholic father who is a Vietnam veteran-turned-kitchenware-salesman. Jackie’s mother is a homemaker who—much to her husband’s chagrin—is pursuing a college education. Jackie himself is more like his mother in that he is bookish and prefers to spend time in the library reading and worrying about Russian warfare over training for the hockey and baseball tryouts his father insists he attend. Amid increasing tension between his parents, Jackie disappears into the formidable task that is leaving boyhood behind in “Me Decade” Middle America. In these enjoyable and touching stories, Davidson’s (Spectators, 2017, etc.) prose is meticulous in conjuring the precise atmospherics of time and place. His nostalgia for a bygone era in Infidels is particularly vivid (“I knew where he’d lifted that look. It was Danny Zuko in Grease. We’d seen the movie three times last summer, drooling over Olivia Newton John in those skin-tight leather pants”). The author also demonstrates impressive stylistic dynamism; his writing can be both funny and adept at rendering painful emotional intricacies. That said, Davidson doesn’t extend this care to other elements of his writing. Some side characters lack dimension. Recurring symbols make appearances that read like afterthoughts. And dialogue occasionally veers toward the trite.

A pair of tales that will entertain, transport, and move readers. 

Pub Date: July 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-944355-46-3

Page Count: 177

Publisher: Five Oaks Press

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2019

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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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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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