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Eighty Days of Sunlight

A NOVEL

Equal parts hilarity and heartbreak in an accomplished debut.

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In Yune’s moving and darkly comic debut novel, a young Korean-American man struggles to come to terms with his cultural identity and dysfunctional working-class family.

When Jason’s father loses his blue-collar job, he sends his young son and Jason’s antagonistic brother, Tommy, to stay with a friend called “the doctor” and his wife in Princeton, New Jersey, while he looks for work. Once he’s situated in a job at a book bindery in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Tommy is called home to live with their now-overworked and abusive father, but Jason remains in the doctor’s household, where he’s brought up in affluence and privilege. The father’s suicide brings the rival brothers back together, as Jason discovers he has inherited his father’s house. Both brothers take work at the Wilkes-Barre book bindery, determined that their father’s former workplace holds the secret to his premature death. The brothers are ultimately disappointed by the banal truth surrounding their father’s suicide, and when Tommy is let go after a physical altercation with another employee, Jason eventually leaves the physically and emotionally oppressive work behind to follow his brother and attend college in Pittsburgh. There, the siblings’ tense relationship deepens as Jason attempts to refine his sense of identity and Tommy’s drinking and drug use spiral further out of control. With neither brother able to get much traction in their lives, Jason returns to the doctor’s household for a respite, while his brother comes perilously close to self-destruction. The brothers seem best able to relate as part of triangular relationships, first with their father and later with a charming art student named Kate, and Yune’s exploration of this dynamic is fascinating. The prose is frequently stunning, as in a description of Tommy’s role in a bar fight: “…he was throwing himself before the mercy of the nation’s sharp young men, bulging with bovine growth hormone, testosterone, and date rape.” Yune also proves himself an expert at wry observation: “Reading,” he writes of the dehumanizing atmosphere of the bindery, “was forbidden in the book factory.”

Equal parts hilarity and heartbreak in an accomplished debut.

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1632260444

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Thought Catalog Books/Prospecta Press

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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A LITTLE LIFE

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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