That said, the pleasures here outdistance the shortcomings by a country mile.

NEW STORIES FROM THE SOUTH

THE YEAR’S BEST, 2005

The familiar annual celebrates its 20th anniversary with 19 stories that pull their imaginative starter cultures from below the Mason-Dixon Line.

With an introduction by Jill McCorkle, whose account of an exchange with a Northern waiter who tells her iced tea is “out of season” is worth the price of admission, the collection contains seven must-not-miss stories, three by relative newcomers and four by seasoned pros. Stephanie Soileau’s star-turn “The Boucherie,” about a group of Cajun old-timers who conspire to hide an AWOL cow from the authorities while making a refugee family from Sudan (which they all think is in India) feel right at home, is sure to clinch her a first-book contract if she doesn’t have one already. Two other writers to watch, Ethan Hauser and Rebecca Soppe, also offer fiction that feels decidedly rooted in a 21st-century South, with, respectively, “The Charm of the Highway Median” and “The Pantyhose Man.” From the trusty Southern tale-tellers, Allan Gurganus conjures a retired librarian’s path to sexual enlightenment in “My Heart Is a Snake Farm”; Moira Crone reveals the consequences of never saying anything not nice in “Mr. Sender”; Robert Olen Butler solves one of the great riddles of our time in “Severance”; and Judy Budnitz haunts the reader with her story of a Civil War surgeon’s desperate, final act in “The Kindest Cut.” Anniversaries are helpful milestones for pausing and taking stock of traditions to ensure they’re thriving and not headed down a worn path. In that spirit, it’s important to note that several stories here, including work by Gregory Sanders, Lucinda Harrison Coffman and Janice Daugharty, are familiar as kudzu along a Georgia highway.

That said, the pleasures here outdistance the shortcomings by a country mile.

Pub Date: June 10, 2005

ISBN: 1-56512-469-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2005

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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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