A family drama that remains warm and witty, despite its weighty subject matter.

Ignoring Gravity

From the Rose Haldane, Identity Detective series , Vol. 1

A revelation opens old wounds and spurs new questions for a fiercely independent reporter in Danby’s debut novel.

While paging through a diary belonging to her recently decreased mother, London Herald journalist Rose Haldane learns she was adopted as a child. “I spent my whole childhood wanting Mum to be pleased with me, but she never was,” Rose tells her grandmother. “Every time she looked at me she must have seen nothing of herself to love.” Using the investigative skills she honed as a reporter, Rose sets out to find her biological parents, declaring: “Until I do, I don’t know where I belong.” The complications that ensue are predictable. To Rose’s disappointment, record-keeping practices and privacy standards were very different when she was born in 1968, slowing her search. Yet for others in Rose’s life, the process moves much too quickly. The discovery of the adoption forces Rose’s sister, Lily, to confront fears of infertility. And Rose’s adoptive father, John, is hesitant to delve into the past—a reluctance Rose can appreciate if not quite accept. Although she wants the truth, she also has misgivings. What if her biological parents are criminals or dead? What if she is the product of rape? And perhaps most importantly: if she isn’t Rose Haldane, who is she? Danby does an able job of tackling those queries and more with honesty and empathy. Although the story centers on Rose, several chapters are written from the perspective of Lily, whose own arc reveals itself slowly throughout the book and, ultimately, provides a surprise ending. Unfortunately, the rest of Danby’s cast is thinly realized. Rose’s love interest, Nick, seems to function only as a plot device. And while intriguing in broad strokes, Danby shies away from dipping too deeply into what could have been a fascinating subplot—the motivations of Rose’s adoptive and biological mothers. That’s a shame because all the other elements necessary for a family potboiler are here.

A family drama that remains warm and witty, despite its weighty subject matter. 

Pub Date: Nov. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9931134-1-3

Page Count: 442

Publisher: Beulah Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2015

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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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