Well-executed stories that offer fresh perspectives on long-standing societal problems.


Seven short stories explore the hard lives of Latinos and the fraught relations between their native and adopted countries.

Ruiz (Going Hungry, 2008) writes about characters who grapple with injustice, usually as they pursue the American dream. In “It’s My Wall Now,” a Hispanic woman living in south Texas, on land granted to her ancestors by a Spanish king, wakes up one morning to find that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has built a fence across her property—right over a shrine for her son, an American soldier who was killed while fighting in Iraq. “I didn’t cross the border,” she laments. “The border crossed me.” In “Pierce the Sky,” an immigrant to Los Angeles, fleeing “paramilitary sociopaths” in Ecuador, gets stuck in an elevator with a right-wing norteamericano and finds that he’s caught between two worlds—the poverty and violence of his native land and the smog and paranoia of LA. Two stories depict a dystopian future in which rising floodwaters have overwhelmed the eastern United States. In “Liberty Lost,” a Dominican woman living just above sea level—on the 30th floor of her Manhattan apartment building—tries to help prevent a Chinese ship from seizing the Statue of Liberty “to repay some of our country’s old debts.” In “Inverted,” the U.S. has fallen into anarchy, forcing an American family to sneak into Mexico, an oasis of peace and plenty, only to be deported after they’re caught working as migrant laborers. Occasionally, Ruiz tells too much, as when a character sententiously explains that it’s ironic that immigrants are “fighting for Liberty when it was American xenophobia that ignited this whole apocalypse.” At other times, the stories use shopworn language, such as “I felt empowered.” But many stories show real sparks of creativity as they give voices to the voiceless. Although a few are predictable Horatio Alger–style tales of immigrants, most paint nuanced pictures of people seeking an impossible American dream.

Well-executed stories that offer fresh perspectives on long-standing societal problems.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2013

ISBN: 978-1304064899

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2014

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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy,...


Britisher Haddon debuts in the adult novel with the bittersweet tale of a 15-year-old autistic who’s also a math genius.

Christopher Boone has had some bad knocks: his mother has died (well, she went to the hospital and never came back), and soon after he found a neighbor’s dog on the front lawn, slain by a garden fork stuck through it. A teacher said that he should write something that he “would like to read himself”—and so he embarks on this book, a murder mystery that will reveal who killed Mrs. Shears’s dog. First off, though, is a night in jail for hitting the policeman who questions him about the dog (the cop made the mistake of grabbing the boy by the arm when he can’t stand to be touched—any more than he can stand the colors yellow or brown, or not knowing what’s going to happen next). Christopher’s father bails him out but forbids his doing any more “detecting” about the dog-murder. When Christopher disobeys (and writes about it in his book), a fight ensues and his father confiscates the book. In time, detective-Christopher finds it, along with certain other clues that reveal a very great deal indeed about his mother’s “death,” his father’s own part in it—and the murder of the dog. Calming himself by doing roots, cubes, prime numbers, and math problems in his head, Christopher runs away, braves a train-ride to London, and finds—his mother. How can this be? Read and see. Neither parent, if truth be told, is the least bit prepossessing or more than a cutout. Christopher, though, with pet rat Toby in his pocket and advanced “maths” in his head, is another matter indeed, and readers will cheer when, way precociously, he takes his A-level maths and does brilliantly.

A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy, moving, and likely to be a smash.

Pub Date: June 17, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50945-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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