A unique, occasionally heartbreaking tale that offers a sliver of hope.

EXPOSED

An automobile accident on New York City’s FDR Drive forever changes the lives of two families and forces a cultural clash between Manhattan’s upper-class Anglos and its immigrant Hispanic underclass.

Altschuler’s (Invisible Chains, 2012) second novel is ambitious in its scope, dealing with both the personal journey of rediscovery by a middle-aged woman and the legal minefields faced by undocumented immigrants. Additionally, it raises the provocative issue of using immigrants held in detention to staff sweatshop factories. The drama begins when Roisin Casey—wife, mother of two, professional manager in a pharmaceutical firm and comfortable member of Manhattan’s advantaged social and economic class—becomes momentarily distracted and swerves her car into a rather dilapidated truck driven by Juan Rodriguez, an undocumented immigrant and member of the city’s working poor. Wracked with guilt when Juan is arrested for having an expired driver’s license and learning that he faces deportation, Roisin feels compelled to help Juan’s wife and infant son. In the process, she finds she can no longer contain the growing dissatisfaction and emotional turmoil that has been roiling beneath the surface of her safe, exceedingly orderly life. The steps she takes to befriend Juan’s wife, Lourdes, threaten her own marriage and profoundly shake her family. The narrative is relayed through the alternating perspectives of the primary characters: Roisin, Juan, Lourdes, Juan’s brother Angel and, to a lesser extent, Roisin’s son, Warren. Altschuler is prone to exaggerating the good, the indifferent and the nasty in her characterizations, but her story is compelling and important. Unfortunately, the message is undermined by sloppy punctuation, which a solid copy edit could easily repair. Throughout the work, for example, the use of quotation marks is totally capricious. Often there are opening quotes but no closing quotes; sometimes there are no quotation marks at all. This oversight becomes even more confusing because characters frequently do not express their thoughts out loud, making it important to indicate when they are actually speaking. In such a compelling story, readers are likely to forgive a few errors, but another copy edit is still essential.

A unique, occasionally heartbreaking tale that offers a sliver of hope.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-1491810767

Page Count: 222

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2014

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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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Laymon moves us dazzlingly (and sometimes bewilderingly) from 1964 to 1985 to 2013 and incorporates themes of prejudice,...

LONG DIVISION

A novel within a novel—hilarious, moving and occasionally dizzying.

Citoyen “City” Coldson is a 14-year-old wunderkind when it comes to crafting sentences. In fact, his only rival is his classmate LaVander Peeler. Although the two don’t get along, they’ve qualified to appear on the national finals of the contest "Can You Use That Word in a Sentence," and each is determined to win. Unfortunately, on the nationally televised show, City is given the word “niggardly” and, to say the least, does not provide a “correct, appropriate or dynamic usage” of the word as the rules require. LaVander similarly blows his chance with the word “chitterlings,” so both are humiliated, City the more so since his appearance is available to all on YouTube. This leads to a confrontation with his grandmother, alas for City, “the greatest whupper in the history of Mississippi whuppings.” Meanwhile, the principal at City’s school has given him a book entitled Long Division. When City begins to read this, he discovers that the main character is named City Coldson, and he’s in love with a Shalaya Crump...but this is in 1985, and the contest finals occurred in 2013. (Laymon is nothing if not contemporary.) A girl named Baize Shephard also appears in the novel City is reading, though in 2013, she has mysteriously disappeared a few weeks before City’s humiliation. Laymon cleverly interweaves his narrative threads and connects characters in surprising and seemingly impossible ways.

Laymon moves us dazzlingly (and sometimes bewilderingly) from 1964 to 1985 to 2013 and incorporates themes of prejudice, confusion and love rooted in an emphatically post-Katrina world.

Pub Date: June 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-932841-72-5

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Bolden/Agate

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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