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Theory of Remainders

Fully realized characters, a remarkable fluency of language, wit, and an extensive comprehension of French culture and...

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Carpenter’s (This Jealous Earth, 2012) suspenseful debut novel weaves together the consequences of a horrific trauma and the thirst for both vengeance and acceptance with explorations of the human mind, family dynamics and the complexities of language.

A psychiatrist seems well-positioned to process the psychic damage of past events, but Dr. Philip Adler, 52, remains devastated 15 years after the violent death of his only child. As a result, his marriage has imploded, he has developed substance abuse problems, and he has run from the Normandy town where he and his family lived. Adler is a broken, lonely man trying to show strength to others through his clinical practice, but he’s unable to reconcile the events of the past. Although Édouard Morin, a mentally ill local youth, confessed to the crime and has been institutionalized and everyone involved, including Adler’s ex-wife and her new family, wants very much to forget the episode, the body of teenage Sophie Adler has never been found. When the death of Adler’s mother-in-law impels him to finally return to Yvetot, France, he realizes that he must reach closure before he can try to build a new life. Of the many ways a novelist could approach the search for a missing body, Carpenter opts for a most complex and ingenious one—through a detailed analysis of the language used by the brilliant, psychotic Morin during his brief, ill-advised interviews with Adler. This taut, high-stakes plotline is very effective, but the novel contains much more than this. Although Adler is a former resident and fluent in French, he is an interloper in the close-knit community. He is an American; he lacks understanding of the intricacies of French culture; and he is a constant reminder of the town’s inability to keep one of their own safe. As he stirs up unpleasant memories, the town mobilizes against him. The author’s ability to satirize the French people’s distaste for outsiders and their inflexibility brings mordant humor to the grim proceedings.

Fully realized characters, a remarkable fluency of language, wit, and an extensive comprehension of French culture and history make this literary novel a stellar achievement.

Pub Date: May 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0988904903

Page Count: 284

Publisher: Winter Goose Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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THE RUMOR

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Hilderbrand’s latest cautionary tale exposes the toxic—and hilarious—impact of gossip on even the most sophisticated of islands.

Eddie and Grace Pancik are known for their beautiful Nantucket home and grounds, financed with the profits from Eddie’s thriving real estate company (thriving before the crash of 2008, that is). Grace raises pedigreed hens and, with the help of hunky landscape architect Benton Coe, has achieved a lush paradise of fowl-friendly foliage. The Panciks’ teenage girls, Allegra and Hope, suffer invidious comparisons of their looks and sex appeal, although they're identical twins. The Panciks’ friends the Llewellyns (Madeline, a blocked novelist, and her airline-pilot husband, Trevor) invested $50,000, the lion’s share of Madeline’s last advance, in Eddie’s latest development. But Madeline, hard-pressed to come up with catalog copy, much less a new novel, is living in increasingly straightened circumstances, at least by Nantucket standards: she can only afford $2,000 per month on the apartment she rents in desperate hope that “a room of her own” will prime the creative pump. Construction on Eddie’s spec houses has stalled, thanks to the aforementioned crash. Grace, who has been nursing a crush on Benton for some time, gives in and a torrid affair ensues, which she ill-advisedly confides to Madeline after too many glasses of Screaming Eagle. With her agent and publisher dropping dire hints about clawing back her advance and Eddie “temporarily” unable to return the 50K, what’s a writer to do but to appropriate Grace’s adultery as fictional fodder? When Eddie is seen entering her apartment (to ask why she rented from a rival realtor), rumors spread about him and Madeline, and after the rival realtor sneaks a look at Madeline’s rough draft (which New York is hotly anticipating as “the Playboy Channel meets HGTV”), the island threatens to implode with prurient snark. No one is spared, not even Hilderbrand herself, “that other Nantucket novelist,” nor this magazine, “the notoriously cranky Kirkus.”

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-33452-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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