The latest from Gunesekera (Heaven’s Edge, 2003, etc.) is a gentle story of awakening and regeneration.

THE MATCH

While the title refers to a cricket match, the book’s real action is played out against a volatile background of political revolution in Sri Lanka.

Sunny is a young man growing up in Manila, though his father, a journalist, is originally from Sri Lanka. As a boy, Sunny is enamored of two things: cricket and Tina, and both obsessions converge in a match in which Tina, a natural at the sport, helps Sunny’s team eke out a victory. Almost immediately after the flush of this achievement, however, Sunny’s world starts to fall apart when he discovers that his mother’s “accidental” death was actually a suicide—and he blames his father for her self-destruction. His life takes another unexpected turn when he travels to London to study engineering, a field he has almost no interest in. For a time, what does absorb him is the swinging capital itself, though he discovers that his friend Lydia, who is studying meteorology there, spends her time measuring old rocks, not partying. “So much for hedonism,” he concludes. Sunny’s life continues to unfold in unpredictable ways, especially after he meets and marries radiant Clara. Abandoning engineering, Sunny opens a photography studio with tepid results. He and Clara have a son, Mikey, who grows up much more interested in rock music than in cricket or in his parents’ heritage. Eventually Sunny’s domestic world begins to fragment, and he decides to visit Sri Lanka. The final cricket match Sunny witnesses becomes an epiphany, for he is graced with a circumscribed but nevertheless momentous realization that “things could be renewed,” and that he can use words to “bring peace to his own mind if not to the world.”

The latest from Gunesekera (Heaven’s Edge, 2003, etc.) is a gentle story of awakening and regeneration.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59558-198-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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