REVERE BEACH BOULEVARD

VOL. I OF THE REVERE BEACH TRILOGY

Merullo’s third novel nicely combines the strengths of his first two: it’s as beautifully written as his first, Leaving Losapas (1991), and as smoothly plotted (and commercial) as his second, A Russian Requiem (1993). Although it’s about family, gambling, gangsters, sin, and redemption, Merullo’s smart book resists all the clichÇs of ethnic melodrama. Set in the blue-collar coastal town of Revere, Massachusetts, this study in secrets and lies in no way romanticizes either its working-class Italians or the goodfellas who prey upon their addictions. For Peter Imbesalacqua, a 40-year-old failing real-estate agent, that vice is gambling, which threatens to engulf his entire world, including his parents, Vito and Lucy, still living in the neighborhood, and his glamorous sister, Joannie, a Boston TV news anchor who’s bailed Peter out of too many jams. Told in the various voices of the main characters, the narrative also relies on the perspective of Father Dom, Vito’s boyhood friend and confessor to the Imbesalacqua family, and someone with a few secrets of his own. Peter’s debt to local wiseguy Eddie Crevine forces him to debase himself and lie to those around him. A dreamer with a true salesman’s personality, Peter is further haunted by a long-held family secret: the true relation of a childhood buddy, now the local police captain, who will do anything to protect the Imbesalacquas. Joannie, whose own secret everyone has long suspected, decides to practice tough love with her brother and also plans to expose Crevine in a series on local crime bosses. Merullo, with a tip of his hat to Dostoyevsky, probes the psyche of the gambler but avoids any neat explanations for —the animal of addiction.— The conflict of loyalties here(church, blood, class) also accounts for much inner turmoil among the primary characters, each drawn with sensitivity and intelligence. If Coppola or Scorsese ever repent for their glamorization of the underworld, this is the perfect novel to bring to the big screen: the ordinary people of Merullo’s realist fiction, no easy saints themselves, testify to the true meaning of familial love.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8050-6005-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1998

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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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