by Robert L. Spevakow ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 30, 2009
A Vancouver-based wholesaler’s life takes a nosedive after his best friend kicks the bucket at the peak of his physical, emotional and financial success.
Aaron Canducci was born to a Jewish mother and a Catholic father, predisposing him to an acceptance of mysticism and various faiths. Consequently, he’s a very spiritual guy. And it’s a good thing, too, considering his wife has all but abandoned him for her job in New York; major changes are at hand in the distribution company he owns; and his successful, seemingly healthy best friend, Hy Rosen, has just died in his middle age, leaving behind his family and wealth. When Hy visits Aaron from the other side in a dream, he confirms the existence of the afterlife with a secret message Aaron must pass along to Hy’s wife. Aaron obsesses over the meaning of the message but can’t seem to find time to decode it amid his struggles to overcome his drinking problem, betting on horse races at the Bookie Joint, visiting his psychic shrink friend for therapy sessions, volunteering with the Salvation Army and warding off the mob. All of this occurs before Aaron learns that his wife has been hiding a lesbian lover from him for four years, his daughter was raped more than two years ago and there’s a secret, dangerous branch of his family he’s not sure he should get involved with. And then there’s Aaron’s struggle to return to the dating scene after 25 years of marriage. Spevakow crams so many threads into this ambitious, fast-paced novel that it’s difficult to pin down the main plotline or relate to the characters. Most of them lack distinguishing characteristics, so mobsters seem more passive-aggressive than ruthless and Aaron is so even-keeled that his spirituality might as well be complacency. The robotic-sounding dialogue doesn’t help. As Aaron’s daughter unloads her sexual past on him, he jokes, “You could make me a strong drink. No, I’m just kidding. You know I’m not supposed to drink.” Still, Aaron’s many exploits intersect in a web of harrowing misadventures that are impossible to stop reading, most notably his dealings with gangster Darius Singh, the man responsible for Aaron’s first drink, at age 14, that would lead to most of his adult problems. A compelling story of spirituality, emotional desolation and forgiveness whose characters could use some life.
Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2009
Page Count: 223
Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2012
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Hanya Yanagihara ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 10, 2015
The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2015
National Book Award Finalist
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
Page Count: 720
Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015
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by Kristin Hannah ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 1, 2006
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
Page Count: 400
Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005
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