At its best, a finely observed consideration of how mental illness impacts an entire family.


The loss of a beloved daughter, presumed drowned, exposes the secrets and heartache behind the facade of a perfect-seeming family.

It’s 1962 and the Maurer family’s existence in Confederação, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro, is glamorous and privileged. Brilliant, mercurial Hugo, a Canadian employed by BrazCan, feels liberated by “this golden town”; his beautiful wife, Dora, with her wealthy Brazilian roots, is at home here; and their three daughters enjoy the beaches, their own lush garden, and the care of servants. But the Maurers’ life is not quite as flawless as it seems. Charismatic Hugo is subject to extreme mood swings: sometimes he’s overflowing with impulses, ideas, and energy, while at others times he's cowed and despairing. Luiza, his eldest daughter, with whom he has a special bond, finds herself taking on some of the adult role of caring for him, while Dora feels guilty for diminishing her child’s “capacity to live a normal, starry young-girl life.” As Hugo’s illness deepens, the family’s finances oblige them to move back to Canada, but then, just before their departure, Luiza goes missing from the beach. Faber’s pensive, psychologically probing debut is tireless in its mapping of the Maurers’ geometry, tracing each family member’s feelings from a point a year later, after Luiza’s symbolic funeral. The Maurers' plans to leave the country have resumed, but then come rumors that Luiza might not have drowned after all. This slow, late plot thread, though welcome, isn’t quite enough to energize a story so preoccupied with the delicate inner fretwork of psychological perspectives. Notable for its lovely prose and melancholy empathy, the book is slowed by its narrow focus and circularity. There’s a peaceful conclusion waiting, though, for readers happy to stay the course.

At its best, a finely observed consideration of how mental illness impacts an entire family.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-39496-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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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 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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