A confident, strongly voiced portrait of despair and the flickering light at the end of the tunnel.

THERE ARE REASONS NOAH PACKED NO CLOTHES

Despair and salvation mix to powerful effect in Jacoby’s debut novel that follows a young man’s confrontation with suicide.

In 1982, 19-year-old Richard Issych’s life alternates between fear and despair. As seen in flashbacks, his life is marked by distance and alienation: Unable to connect to his family and lacking focus in work and college, he steadily works up the nerve to kill himself, culminating in a massive overdose of Quaaludes that lands him in a mental hospital outside Cleveland. As he slowly recovers from his overdose and adjusts to a regimen of seemingly ineffectual therapy and powerful antidepressants, he discovers a brotherhood of sorts among his fellow patients. However, not all his fellow patients are welcoming; some are dangerous in ways Richard can’t understand, and as he recovers, he finds that threats can take unexpected forms. With strong, assured writing, Jacoby confidently duplicates the frazzled, nonlinear mindset of someone impaired by medication and a shifting grasp on “sanity,” making clear the shattered nature of Richard’s perspective, which becomes a functioning part of the narrative rather than a showy literary device. While the doctors’ and nurses’ behaviors are presented entirely from Richard’s point of view, Jacoby also manages to suggest their depth and purpose through Richard’s sharpening perception, allowing the reader’s perspective to change without drawing attention to mechanics. More impressively, Jacoby presents the female characters through Richard’s limited viewpoint while achieving characterizations beyond what the troubled man is capable of perceiving, at least at his psychological nadir.

A confident, strongly voiced portrait of despair and the flickering light at the end of the tunnel.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2012

ISBN: 9780983969709

Page Count: 342

Publisher: Cloud Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2013

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

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

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