Contains too many echoes of films (from The Deer Hunter to Mean Streets to Sleepers), including particularly significant...


Boyhood friendships and dreams are reshaped by mysteries that resonate for decades in the veteran character actor’s flavorful successor to his well-received debut novel, The Memory of Running (2005).

Like that novel, this one takes the form of a journey—undertaken by middle-aged bartender and working actor Jono Riley, its narrator. When old friend Cubby D’Agostino notifies Jono of the death of his sister Marie (whom Jono had not so secretly loved when they were kids), a trip back to his old East Providence, R.I., neighborhood coincides with a flood of sometimes wistful, but often painful, memories—as well as unanswered questions. Who fired the shotgun, wounding 12-year-old Marie, who lived 40 years with a bullet in her back, until it “traveled,” finally killing her? What is the secret that made Jono’s “Portagee” buddy Bobby Fontes old before his time, and deepened the vulnerability none of his old friends had ever sensed? The book feels somewhat muddled early on, as McLarty awkwardly juggles interlocking flashbacks, but the story quickly settles into a lucid juxtaposition of past and present. There’s some charmingly funny stuff about adolescent camaraderie and mischief, and Jono’s wry, salty voice is a pleasure to listen to (even when McLarty regales us with rather too many theater-related anecdotes). Nice supporting characters, too, including Jono’s tenderhearted tough-broad girlfriend Renée, Bobby’s pathetic drunken inamorata Colleen, brutal neighborhood bully “Poochy” Ponserelli and 390-pound bouncer (and bibliophile) Randall Pound.

Contains too many echoes of films (from The Deer Hunter to Mean Streets to Sleepers), including particularly significant debts to Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River and the Clint Eastwood adaptation thereof. Still, a lively, big-hearted tale, drenched in gritty working-class ambience.

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2007

ISBN: 0-670-03474-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2006

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The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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