A warmhearted, if predictable, exploration of healing that will have special appeal to dog lovers.

UNLEASHED

In this debut novel, a severe car accident, and a girl’s injured dog, bring a traumatized war veteran and a widow together.

Thirty-eight-year old novelist Moss Westbury, a veteran suffering from PTSD, lives in the mountain town of Sisters, Oregon. He savors the stillness of his isolated life, in which he tries to avoid “the quicksand of despair.” Two years ago, his leg was blown off by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, and he’s finding civilian life difficult, especially after he’s jilted by his fiancee. In Eugene, a two-hour drive away, seamstress Carolina Graham contemplates options for a camping trip with her 11-year-old daughter, Rowan, and their two dogs, Stormy and Zephyr. The latter, a wolfhound-deerhound mix, has eased Rowan’s grief over her father’s death four years earlier. The girl has a special, seemingly telepathic bond with the dog, communicating with her through “mind-pictures.” But as the family van nears Sisters, a deer plows into it, causing a multicar accident. Stormy is killed and Zephyr bolts into the forest. Rowan is airlifted to a Portland hospital with head trauma; she survives, but loses her sight. After reading newspaper accounts of the accident, Moss tries to find Zephyr in the wilderness, and ends up saving her life. Moss is faced with new possibilities when he meets Carolina and Rowan. Blaine (Bound to Love, 2015) effectively places the story of the girl and her dog at the center of her debut novel. Readers will likely be able to see where the story is headed fairly early on, and the author’s handling of Moss’ trauma sometimes feels stereotypical and clichéd. However, the novel is most successful when it gets out of the characters’ heads and allows them to interact directly, as when Moss tells Carolina, “Zephyr opened a door for me—now I know I need other warm-blooded beings around me.” 

A warmhearted, if predictable, exploration of healing that will have special appeal to dog lovers.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9779483-6-9

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Berkana Publications

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2020

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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