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KINGDOM OF WOMEN

A bold, politically minded tale with a spiritual soul.

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A feminist alternative history novel explores the morality of violence.

In a world slightly different from readers’ own, women suffer the same primordial trespasses against them: unwanted sexual advances, harassment, violence, silencing. In this realm, however, a vigilante organization exists in order to strike back against those who trespass against them. One woman who has suffered more than most is Averil Parnell. The lone survivor of an infamous massacre meant to snuff out the first-ever class of female Roman Catholic priests, Averil is of two minds on the nature of violent justice. The church teaches forgiveness, of course, but some acts may be impossible to pardon. “What do you do with the anger?” Averil muses while counseling a young woman who wants to kill her male blackmailer. “And the young woman’s more immediate, more pressing concern: What should I do with it?” Regardless of Averil’s association (or lack thereof) with extralegal groups, her symbolism and mysticism place her at the center of an ever expanding cult of admirers and believers even as her failure to meet a different vow—that of celibacy—threatens to upend everything this priest has built. Whether peaceful or violent, no movement that challenges the status quo can hope to escape the notice of the powers that be. Kearns writes in a precise prose that elegantly skates the line between literary and conversational, delivering sharp images and observant barbs: “Nothing could rattle her calm, not the seedy diner with its greasy windows and tasteless meat loaf, nor the equally seedy convenience store across the street, where she sensed the usual unwanted male attention as soon as she pushed through the door.” The world the author has created is inventive and provocative, but she does not rely on premise alone to sustain the book. Averil and the other point-of-view characters are fully formed and richly motivated, and the novel’s daring critique of today’s patriarchy never feels didactic or forced. As in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, this novel offers an alternate reality that feels disturbingly real. It demands the reader live inside it and see who gets destroyed.

A bold, politically minded tale with a spiritual soul.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-937543-42-6

Page Count: 282

Publisher: Jaded Ibis Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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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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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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