With emotional resonance, an innovative structure and a unique narrator, Thomas crafts a book that's greater than the sum of...

BRIDGE

A novel in stories that brings readers deep into the eccentric and neurotic mind of its protagonist.

Thomas (Dragging the Lake, 2006, etc.) links these 56 stories with a consistent voice. Alice—a lonely, at times suicidal woman—narrates the minutiae of her life with insight and wit. She's a word processor at a law firm, a job she compares to being a paramedic: “somewhere between an emergency room resident and a taxi driver.” Thomas’ prose in these episodic vignettes is tight and vivid. In each two-to-three page installment, solipsistic Alice is given black humor and memorable one-liners. In “¿Qué Pasó?” she recounts a short interaction with a co-worker and examines issues of love, power and language. She determines, “[n]othing is as infuriating as someone who acts as if they’re just saying something and not doing something by saying it.” These sharp observations are characteristic of Alice's perspective. As she looks at the Golden Gate Bridge, thinks about marine biology and discusses opera, she considers the soul, consequences and death. In “Capital Punishment,” she notes, “[s]ometimes suicide is nothing more than a way of saying ‘No, actually I was not being ironic. I meant it.’ ” In “Naming a Baby,” she remembers one particularly biting comment her mother made about her grandmother’s cooking. She decides, “[t]hat’s the worst, isn’t it? To take the one thing someone does well, the one wildflower that barely survives in the shadow of their mountain of mediocrities, and tell them that’s it, that’s what I hate about you.” To a reader looking for an action-packed plot, Alice’s digressions and the extreme interiority of the book might become exhausting. But there is a payoff; the stories function as building blocks that fit within an overarching narrative. They proceed chronologically as Alice’s depression intensifies and she struggles to find a way out from her abyss.

With emotional resonance, an innovative structure and a unique narrator, Thomas crafts a book that's greater than the sum of its parts.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-938160-48-6

Page Count: 152

Publisher: BOA Editions

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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