NIGHTMARE

The multiple-personality patients are the least dangerous inmates of Dr. Russell Guerin's ranch clinic—in this latest Kansas gothic from Epperson (Borderland, p. 6; etc.). When Dr. Guerin invites Bryan Raleigh, a psychiatrist who's developed a group-therapy program for multiples, to his isolated Flint Hills clinic to demonstrate the program, Guerin's grotesquely obese wife Augusta, the real guiding spirit at the clinic, persuades him to include Raleigh's journalist brother David in the invitation, even though the brothers have been estranged ever since the suicide of David's society wife. Also along for the ride are occupational therapist Kate Berquist; social-worker Melvina Kierkes; and David's Oprah-addicted parrot Frank. Even before their plane lands, the visitors have already discovered the first of a mounting pile of corpses—a multiple who turned out to be all-too-susceptible to posthypnotic suggestion. As predictable romances blossom amid the gathering clouds—David duels the Guerins' antique-gun-collecting son Jay for blushing Kate, and self-avowed lesbian Mel finds herself wooed by a cowhand barely out of his teens—the secret behind the bumps in the night (mysterious self-mutilations; Mel's night in a charnel cave whose human contents have disappeared the next day; the real reason Augusta Guerin wanted David invited) becomes more and more firmly rooted in Epperson's trademark obsession with monstrously evil villains obsessed in turn with blood. For most of its length, this installment keeps its hysteria under tighter control than usual; it's only in the sanguinary denouement that its pulpish energy springs to the surface.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 1992

ISBN: 1-55611-338-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Donald Fine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1992

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

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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