Both the familiar and the strange are eloquently evoked and celebrated here: a model anthology.

NEW STORIES FROM THE SOUTH

THE YEAR’S BEST, 2003

Editor Ravenel has cast her net widely and well, making the 18th installment of this deservedly successful series one of its best yet.

Only a handful of the contributors have familiar names, and two of them appear here in peak form. John Dufresne’s “Johnny Too Bad” is a hilarious monologue spoken by a transplanted New Englander and would-be writer experiencing a Florida hurricane alongside his brainy, voluptuous girlfriend Annick and “chronically aggressive” dog Spot. Now that Dufresne has moved south, FFW (Florida’s Funniest Writer) Carl Hiaasen will need to look to his laurels. Equally impressive is Dorothy Allison’s “Compassion,” whose narrator’s unflinching description of her beloved “Mama’s” death from cancer blossoms into a rich orchestration of family contention, closeness, and pride. A somewhat similar story, Donald Hays’s “Dying Light,” depicts the subtly changing relationships among another moribund cancer victim, his frail devoted wife, and their unhappily married, underachieving adult son. Embattled relationships also figure in Michael Knight’s “Ellen’s Book,” which is and isn’t about “a dead baby haunting his father,” and Latha Viswanathan’s breezy portrayal of an Indian matchmaker operating out of Houston via the Internet (“Cool Wedding”). Several stories accomplish what Steve Almond declares the objective of his own fine, wild story of alleged alien visitation, “The Soul Molecule”: “to find a note of grace in the incontrovertibly strange.” Best are Brock Clarke’s Barthelmian fantasy about a victim of divorce who consoles himself by buying the city of Savannah (“For Those of Us Who Need Such Things”) and Ingrid Hill’s literally miraculous tale of a maimed Vietnam vet’s fortuitous collision with stoical black healer “Mother Peaches” (“The Ballad of Rappy Valcour”). And if traditional stories are your thing, don’t miss Paul Prather’s loving depiction of a group of elderly women who shepherd a rundown church through its inevitable demise (“The Faithful”).

Both the familiar and the strange are eloquently evoked and celebrated here: a model anthology.

Pub Date: July 11, 2003

ISBN: 1-56512-395-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2003

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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