A wise and witty first novel detailing the lonely days and nights of a single California woman—a quiet, melancholy tale infused with surprising and delightful whimsy. At 29, Leslie Kovalksy is still a drifter, having driven cross-country from her New Jersey home to take up a sort of borderline existence on the California coastline. A former ballet dancer, she does work as a paralegal, snips magazine articles, makes love with whoever asks, and wanders the beach at all hours, but she still hasn't managed to identify the life—or the man—of her dreams. A brief, obsessive affair with a hang glider leads her into a quirky friendship with Cornelia, his German, live-in girlfriend whose funny English (American men are ``weert''—as unsubstantial as ``sheddos'') endears her to Leslie. Wanting earnestly to do the right thing, Leslie helps pry Cornelia from her unhealthy lover and even finds her a job, but both attempts end in disaster. So do Leslie's frequent if tentative attempts at finding love: a handsome truck driver propositions her but fails to perform; a cousin of her boss's behaves piggishly and drives a ``penismobile''; an older friend and running partner turns inexplicably surly when Leslie lends out his books on how to swim; and even her next-door-neighbor, a possible Mr. Right, starts ridiculing her for how little money she makes. Bewildered by the frequent emotional eruptions of friends she's just trying to please, comforted only by Cornelia's ``weert'' English and the poetic musings of Dr. Love, a beach bum she encounters near her house, Leslie begins to sense that the secret to life lies not in the storyline she longs to create for herself but in mysterious fragments that resist being—and should never be—forced together. A poetic, sweet, and memorable story—and a remarkably accomplished debut.

Pub Date: May 1, 1993

ISBN: 1-877946-25-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Permanent Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1993

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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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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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