A compelling tale that’s a must for Hess’ fans and an excellent introduction for everyone else.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

The Butcher's Sons

In this novel, set in 1930s New York, the lives of three brothers diverge and intertwine as each finds his own pathway to manhood. 

Hess’ (Bergdorf Boys, 2011, etc.) latest work is a brutally dark, lyrical fairy tale in which three siblings pursue their respective journeys through life while finding their places within a shattered family. The story establishes its characters right away when eldest brother Dickie pushes youngest Adlai to the ground over a perceived slight. Middle brother Walt doesn’t respond, but Big Ed, a member of the Butchers, Dickie’s small-time Irish gang, finally intervenes. The sheer gravity of Dickie’s violent temperament drags all the brothers down with him. In an effort to go big-time with the Butchers, Dickie intrudes on a meeting between rival Italian mobsters and ends up shooting one of them. Later, he sends an Italian bagman packing by smashing a pickle jar on his head. These acts garner the attention of Frankie, a sharp-dressing mobster, who kidnaps Dickie, beats him to a pulp, and then offers him a job as a hit man, with the caveat that Dickie’s brothers must also work for him. Beautifully written, infused with symbolism and baptisms of blood, fire, and water, this tale shows each character reaching epiphanies in their separate journeys. Adlai, for example, is on the threshold of coming to terms with his homosexuality: “He was thinking almost like another person, an older person, a man from the future…he was aware of a newness coming through him.” Meanwhile, they all find love: Dickie meets his match in an African-American woman named Eva; would-be doctor Walt falls for Adriana, whose physician father despises him; and Adlai enters a dangerous but fulfilling relationship with another man. When Dickie’s plot to fix Walt’s romantic problems backfires, the family hides out in an upstate cabin, where their zombielike father, Pat, rises from the dead, taking charge. At once gritty, poetic, and romantic, Hess’ masterful, elegant style weaves these diverse elements into a seamless narrative that touches the heart of what it means to be human. 

A compelling tale that’s a must for Hess’ fans and an excellent introduction for everyone else. 

Pub Date: April 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59021-074-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Lethe Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 15

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

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

Did you like this book?

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

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

Did you like this book?

more