A fascinating study of human attachment and loss.


A fast-moving fusion of microfiction and free verse that peers into the places where people keep things most deeply hidden.

Vaughan (Diptychs + Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits, 2013, etc.) is quick to identify his own motivations for this project. In “Fallout,” one of the shorter flash-fiction vignettes included in this collection, he writes: “He wants to photograph the seed pods, transfixed by the way they morph while they float….He hopes to capture their essence, as if by shooting them, freezing them frame by frame, he might see his own life oozing before him, undulating like festering wounds.” Whether photographers, tourists or children, Vaughan’s narrators approach their own circumstances and feelings with a scientific attention to detail, slicing each specimen down to the thinnest membrane before studying it with a thorough, distanced objectivity, always seeking some answer and often finding something festering. What they discover is that the most powerful addictions have little to do with substances and everything to do with patterns of behavior and belief. “Basements are unsafe” since they’re where loss occurs and, worse, where truth might be found. When his wife calls him pathetic, a stumbling drunk has to admit, “The truth is we’ve been this way for so long, I think I believe her.” Another husband accuses his wife of paranoia for worrying about his revealing their camping spot to a stranger, but inwardly, he thinks, “I wasn’t willing to admit it: he creeped me out, too….I chuckled but knew she was right.” For all their seeking, the truths they find invariably turn out to be their own inadequacies: “I said: // ‘Tell me the truth.’ / And he said, ‘I don’t believe you— // to tell the truth.’ ” Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the collection is its emotional evenness. The scientific examining persists; there is little judgment, little compassion, only observation. The young woman who loses her friend on a trip and the possibly sociopathic teen threatening sexual violence share a kind of detachment bordering on a lack of affect. These attempts to examine the human animal prove to be the collection’s strength, draining though they can be. In his dissections, Vaughan uncovers an astonishing resilience, but it is often wounded and ugly. The few emotionally charged exceptions, such as “On the Wings of a Dove,” are welcome relief.

A fascinating study of human attachment and loss.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-937865-23-8

Page Count: 142

Publisher: Civil Coping Mechanisms

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...


Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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