Next book

A SOUND LIKE THUNDER

There’s not much meat in this carefully garnished offering.

Brewer’s second novel (after The Poet of Tolstoy Park, 2005) is a problematic coming-of-age story.

The setting is the same: Fairhope, Ala., on Mobile Bay. It’s November 1941, and our narrator, 16-year-old Rove McNee, is growing apart from his father, Captain Dominus McNee, a schoonerman who does commercial runs in the Delta. Everything was fine when the Captain taught Rove sailing and woodworking, but lately the old salt has turned into a mean drunk who patronizes brothels. Rove dreads his returns to their bayfront home, where he lives with his mother, Lillian, kid brother Julian and Granny Wooten, who is dying. Rove’s outsize love for his grandmother blends with his love of books, which she inspired. The novel is festooned with references to Emerson, Thoreau, Yeats, et al., but their presence deprives the characters of oxygen. The other important adult is Josef Unruh, a German neighbor, who generously gave Rove his damaged sloop and helped him repair it. But how seriously can you take someone who speaks comic-book English (“Vat is ze value of . . . zees and zat”)? The plot pivots on the Captain’s behavior at Granny Wooten’s wake. Believing, ludicrously, that Josef is a spy, and suspecting, less ludicrously, that Josef has eyes for his wife, he shoots at the German and then slashes him before being jailed, briefly. Bail? Criminal charges? Not in this jurisdiction. His father’s rampage is the last straw for Rove, who holes up on his sloop. We learn a lot about the boat and Rove’s fishing skills (he uses hand-cast nets), more congenial territory for Brewer, evidently, than the angst-ridden McNee household. He touches lightly on Rove’s emergence into manhood, as he faces down his father and exchanges demure kisses with a potential girlfriend, but then loses control of his material in a final flurry that involves a death, a vigilante ultimatum and a family scattered to the winds.

There’s not much meat in this carefully garnished offering.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-47633-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2006

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 38


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • National Book Award Finalist

Next book

A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 38


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • National Book Award Finalist

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Categories:
Next book

THE NIGHTINGALE

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

Close Quickview