A hilarious dark comedy that explores the nature of friendship through the lens of sexual licentiousness.


Two roommates—an attorney and a professor—share a young woman sexually, a sordid arrangement that turns dangerous in this novel.

Stanley Berman and Thomas McClellan both work at North Carolina University—the former as its head attorney and the latter as a professor of creative writing in the English department. They’re also roommates joined by a profound but lighthearted sense of camaraderie—they spend their days drinking fine wine, playing chess, and gamely arguing “like an old married couple.” Both are romantically unattached—in fact, Stanley is twice divorced, and Thomas thrice. Sexually frustrated, Thomas concocts a peculiar plan, a way to consummate their friendship heterosexually, not platonically. He’ll find them a “go-between,” a young woman they can both bed and, by some incestuous transitivity, sleep “with each other through her.” Ideally, she would move in and keep house, too. Astonishingly, Thomas finds someone: Victoria Templeton, a beautiful, vivacious young woman who aspires to be a “lady writer.” She audits Thomas’ writing class and quickly becomes embroiled in a bizarre sex triangle with the two men, the increasingly inventive choreography of which is amusingly described by Goldstein (The Swami Deheftner, 2013). But their arrangement starts to sour when the two friends both tire of her quirks and then become frightened by her domineering narcissism. She compels them to wear “chastity devices” to prevent them from masturbating. Deciding she’s “deranged,” they plot to get rid of her but anxiously worry how she’ll respond, especially after she issues a thinly veiled threat: “If people found out that a tenured professor and the university counsel were doing this kind of threesome with a young woman, don’t you think they’d find it inappropriate?” The author’s humor is as deliciously subversive as Thomas considers himself to be—raunchily funny and psychologically daring. In addition, the relationship between the two protagonists—despite the boundaries it luridly transgresses—is brilliantly wholesome, even touching. Each paragraph of the story is as unpredictably peculiar as the next—the plot is a tantalizingly original puzzle, dramatically gripping, erotically electric, and satisfyingly weird.

A hilarious dark comedy that explores the nature of friendship through the lens of sexual licentiousness.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68463-026-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: SparkPress

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2020

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Gigantic, strange, exquisite, terrifying, and replete with mystery.


A triptych of stories set in 1893, 1993, and 2093 explore the fate of humanity, the essential power and sorrow of love, and the unique doom brought upon itself by the United States.

After the extraordinary reception of Yanagihara's Kirkus Prize–winning second novel, A Little Life (2015), her follow-up could not be more eagerly awaited. While it is nothing like either of her previous novels, it's also unlike anything else you've read (though Cloud Atlas, The House of Mirth, Martin and John, and Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy may all cross your mind at various points). More than 700 pages long, the book is composed of three sections, each a distinct narrative, each set in a counterfactual historical iteration of the place we call the United States. The narratives are connected by settings and themes: A house on Washington Square in Greenwich Village is central to each; Hawaii comes up often, most prominently in the second. The same names are used for (very different) characters in each story; almost all are gay and many are married. Even in the Edith Wharton–esque opening story, in which the scion of a wealthy family is caught between an arranged marriage and a reckless affair, both of his possible partners are men. Illness and disability are themes in each, most dramatically in the third, set in a brutally detailed post-pandemic totalitarian dystopia. Here is the single plot connection we could find: In the third part, a character remembers hearing a story with the plot of the first. She mourns the fact that she never did get to hear the end of it: "After all these years I found myself wondering what had happened....I knew it was foolish because they weren't even real people but I thought of them often. I wanted to know what had become of them." You will know just how she feels. But what does it mean that Yanagihara acknowledges this? That is just one of the conundrums sure to provoke years of discussion and theorizing. Another: Given the punch in the gut of utter despair one feels when all the most cherished elements of 19th- and 20th-century lives are unceremoniously swept off the stage when you turn the page to the 21st—why is the book not called To Hell?

Gigantic, strange, exquisite, terrifying, and replete with mystery.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-385-54793-2

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

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A travel writer has one last shot at reconnecting with the best friend she just might be in love with.

Poppy and Alex couldn't be more different. She loves wearing bright colors while he prefers khakis and a T-shirt. She likes just about everything while he’s a bit more discerning. And yet, their opposites-attract friendship works because they love each other…in a totally platonic way. Probably. Even though they have their own separate lives (Poppy lives in New York City and is a travel writer with a popular Instagram account; Alex is a high school teacher in their tiny Ohio hometown), they still manage to get together each summer for one fabulous vacation. They grow closer every year, but Poppy doesn’t let herself linger on her feelings for Alex—she doesn’t want to ruin their friendship or the way she can be fully herself with him. They continue to date other people, even bringing their serious partners on their summer vacations…but then, after a falling-out, they stop speaking. When Poppy finds herself facing a serious bout of ennui, unhappy with her glamorous job and the life she’s been dreaming of forever, she thinks back to the last time she was truly happy: her last vacation with Alex. And so, though they haven’t spoken in two years, she asks him to take another vacation with her. She’s determined to bridge the gap that’s formed between them and become best friends again, but to do that, she’ll have to be honest with Alex—and herself—about her true feelings. In chapters that jump around in time, Henry shows readers the progression (and dissolution) of Poppy and Alex’s friendship. Their slow-burn love story hits on beloved romance tropes (such as there unexpectedly being only one bed on the reconciliation trip Poppy plans) while still feeling entirely fresh. Henry’s biggest strength is in the sparkling, often laugh-out-loud-funny dialogue, particularly the banter-filled conversations between Poppy and Alex. But there’s depth to the story, too—Poppy’s feeling of dissatisfaction with a life that should be making her happy as well as her unresolved feelings toward the difficult parts of her childhood make her a sympathetic and relatable character. The end result is a story that pays homage to classic romantic comedies while having a point of view all its own.

A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0675-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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