An entertainingly creative work, but one that lacks coherence and plausibility.



A journalist turns to color therapy to transcend her emotional pain in this eclectic novel. 

In the mid-1990s, middle-aged Iris Miller works for Northern California–based Eco Planet magazine, and she obsesses about her former lovers, her desire to change the world, and her longing for celebrity and wealth. She used to foster kids but was blacklisted by local agencies after she told a social worker about how much she wanted a child of her own, which caused the worker to cite “boundary issues.” She then adopts a baby, whose teenage mother quickly has a change of heart. Iris also has a serious relationship with a man named Felix Moss, who dies of colon cancer. As a member of a Jewish family ravaged by the Holocaust, she’s tortured by her friend Ephraim Kiever’s disclosure that his grandfather was a member of the Nazi party. Later, she attends a Native American peyote ceremony. There, she has a vision of a route to peace in the Middle East, involving the construction of a sweat lodge in Jerusalem, open to members of the three Abrahamic religions. She writes a story based on the vision and travels to Israel to accept a Jerusalem Post award for it. However, two friends whom she invites get kidnapped by the Palestine Liberation Organization. Throughout her trials, she uses color therapy, an alternative medicine treatment that’s said to help heal the body and mind. Author Skolnick-Bagnoli (Shiny Objects, 2009, etc.) has produced an imaginative, discursive, and rollicking tale. Her account of Iris’ turn to color therapy is intriguing, and the book includes a full-color appendix that asserts the healing properties of different hues. However, the plot is so scattered that it seems more like a fragmented series of impressions than a novel, leapfrogging from one thought to the next. Also, although the writing can be refreshingly quirky (“her cougar inclination to pursue the dashing alpha male had remained intact”), it’s never clear how much of the story is intended to be comic, and the vision at the heart of the story is borderline incomprehensible. 

An entertainingly creative work, but one that lacks coherence and plausibility. 

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9650530-6-8

Page Count: 334

Publisher: Spaceframe Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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