Despite some heavy-handed prose, this novel inspires with its chronicle of perseverance and courage.

ONCE BENEATH THE STARS

Lentin’s debut novel follows the tumultuous journey of a football player imprisoned in his own body.

In one terrible moment in 1973, Mike Murphy’s life changes forever. The star quarterback of his high-school football team and destined for a Notre Dame scholarship, Mike is injured in a freak football accident and left paralyzed from the neck down. What follows is an insightful look at tragedy and its aftermath, and the meaning of life and death. Although Mike becomes an inspirational leader in his Pennsylvania town, he struggles with his absolute dependency on his mother and brothers, who care for him and keep him alive. Jumping around in time, the story spans the next 20 years, as Mike uses his athletic mindset to persevere through pain and despair, falls in love with a former high school cheerleader, Jenna, and experiences the limitations of their intimacy. Ultimately, the novel ends where it begins: in a hotel room with Dr. Jack Kevorkian, whom Mike has enlisted to help him die. The book, however, shies away from the controversy of assisted suicide and focuses instead on the difficult journey that leads to Mike’s decision. Along the way, Lentin provides an honest and often humorous account of daily challenges and triumphs. The scenes between Mike and his two brothers, who keep him connected to the outside world, are rendered with realism and affection and resonate with the men’s quiet strength. But Mike’s relationship with his estranged father is never fully explained, and this elusive thread proves distracting, especially as the book nears its climax. At times, the prose strains under the weight of too much sentimentality. Lentin’s novel is most engaging when grounded in the everyday struggles of Mike’s life: being fed by his mother, figuring out how to take his girlfriend on a “real” date, listening to the classic rock ‘n’ roll that provides an escape and fuels his desire for freedom. Lentin’s novel is a celebration of imagination, courage and choice.

Despite some heavy-handed prose, this novel inspires with its chronicle of perseverance and courage.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2011

ISBN: 978-0983214809

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Turn the Page

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2012

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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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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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