With six unconventionally religious novels to date, this brave, meditative author has carved a unique niche in American...

DINNER WITH BUDDHA

Merullo (Vatican Waltz, 2013, etc.) offers a third installment in the spiritual adventures of Otto Ringling.

Otto is in a slightly better place than he was after his cherished wife, Jeannie, died (Lunch With Buddha, 2012), but he’s still resisting the assurances of his brother-in-law, noted Buddhist guru Volya Rinpoche, that suffering is merely a stage in his spiritual journey. Nor, visiting the North Dakota retreat center run by Rinpoche and Otto’s sister, Seese, does he want to hear about Seese’s dream vision proclaiming that Otto and his brother-in-law must travel “to the mountains” to facilitate the meeting of his 7-year-old niece, Shelsa—who her parents believe is “a great spiritual being who’d been born…to save the world from cataclysm”—with another great spirit who will help her change the world. Merullo doesn’t make it easy for skeptical readers with this setup, but that’s the point: on their road trip south, through some of America’s most spectacular national parks as well as several grim Indian reservations and New-Age hotspots like Boulder, we, like Otto, find our cynicism worn away by Rinpoche’s gentle instruction in the simple but terribly difficult art of letting go, living each moment to the fullest, seeing the sacred in the everyday. Merullo never forgets how at odds this wisdom is with frenetic, plugged-in contemporary life, which makes all the more moving those times when Otto is able to surrender to it and see the world “as if the disguise had been yanked away.” Sharp character sketches of people encountered on the way and occasional references to current events (it’s August 2013) keep the narrative from floating away in spiritual self-absorption. It closes in Las Vegas (Rinpoche’s love of gambling is a running joke), where Otto takes one more step along the path of accepting a new way of being and looking at the world. Clearly there’s more to come.

With six unconventionally religious novels to date, this brave, meditative author has carved a unique niche in American literature.

Pub Date: June 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-56512-928-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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