A hopeful but sometimes saccharine story about family renewal and the power of prayer.

The Frayed Ribbon

Hart goes straight for the heartstrings in his debut novel about a virtuous woman determined to smooth out the rifts within her family.  

While Gail Rollins is on bed rest in the hospital during her pregnancy, a nurse brings a little girl named Lexie into her room and into her life. Lexie survived a car crash, but her parents were taken to a different hospital. Gail promises the injured girl that she’ll be there for her. To cement that promise, she gives a small stuffed dog toy to Lexie (after detaching it from a stuffed-dog “family”). But just after Lexie returns from surgery, Gail is discharged and leaves the girl behind in the hospital, alone. Sixteen years later, Gail is still haunted by her inability to keep her promise. In the throes of prayer, she receives a strong “impression” that compels her to hold a family reunion in her house at Christmastime. During the reunion, Gail butts heads with her neglectful sister-in-law, cleans up after her tornado of a nephew, manages her own two children, and reconnects with her brother Dale, a diplomat. She also has an unexpected encounter with long-lost family members at the food court in the mall. The sweetest relationship in the book is between Gail and the prodigal Dale—one marked by frustration and misunderstanding as well as tenderness and forgiveness. Mostly, though, Gail passes the reunion putting out fires. Throughout, Hart focuses a good deal on Gail’s reliance on prayer and on what the family is eating. At one point, for example, due to a kitchen mishap, Gail’s homemade food is replaced at the last minute by a local caterer’s canceled order for a Mexican feast. Characters opine on the dangers of Mexican cuisine, becoming gratuitous and slightly xenophobic in their fixation: “I’ll need to buy some air fresheners for the house by the time your family has eaten Mexican food for a week.” The opening scenes at the hospital are the most narratively potent and stirring portion of the book. The remainder of the story, though, tends to be sentimental and righteous in tone.

A hopeful but sometimes saccharine story about family renewal and the power of prayer. 

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4917-8429-7

Page Count: 202

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

Did you like this book?

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • National Book Award Finalist


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet