MOUNTAIN WINDSONG

The tragedy of the forced removal of the Cherokee Nation from their homes in the Southeast to unknown lands west of the Mississippi in 1838, vividly interwoven into a classic love story with glimpses of modern Indian life. The saga of the faithful Oconeechee and her Whippoorwill unfolds slowly, as the tale told to an eager Cherokee child spending the summer with his beloved Grandpa. One of a community relatively untouched by the whites, Whippoorwill comes to consult with Oconeechee's father, a friend of President Andrew Jackson's who went to Washington to intercede on behalf of his people. The young man learns that all efforts to stop the impending removal, even rulings by the Supreme Court, have failed, and that Cherokee opinion is sharply divided—with a minority willing to sign a treaty and sell their lands, bowing to what they see as inevitable. Whippoorwill returns home with the news, but not before falling in love and promising to return to marry Oconeechee. The soldiers surround his village before that can happen, and as a rebel he is among the first to be forced along the Trail of Tears. Dispirited and alone, he turns to whiskey for solace, while his beloved escapes the roundup and hides in the hills with others, seeking news of him at every opportunity. She prevails on an old white friend of her people to find Whippoorwill and bring him back, and he succeeds in returning the man safe and sober to her even though he dies in the process. Using actual documents and song lyrics to add texture to his narrative, Conley (The Witch of Goingsnake, etc.—not reviewed) has shaped a touching, powerful vision of Indian life past and present, of abiding love, and of a national disgrace.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-8061-2452-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Univ. of Oklahoma

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1992

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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