A captivating tale about growing up best suited for nostalgic members of Generation X.

Good-Bye Def Leppard

I'LL MISS THOSE JEANS

In Kramer’s debut novel, a middle-aged mother remembers falling into a complicated romance in the early 1990s.

Amy Gaer is a harried working mother. After a busy day, she listens to her young daughter practice for a music recital and recalls her own youth. Thus begins a flashback to Amy’s early 20s that lasts for nearly the rest of the novel. Readers meet young Amy as she completes what might be her final year at the University of Iowa. She’s trying to determine what to do with her life: follow her dream of a musical career or choose something more financially responsible, such as law or business, as her parents hope she will. She returns to her childhood home in rural Iowa for the summer, where she begins an internship at a local bank and meets Nick Klein, who’s in the process of getting divorced—and who quickly gets under her skin. As soon as his divorce is final, the two begin to date, but Nick hopes to keep things casual so that Amy won’t feel reluctant to leave town in pursuit of professional goals. The only thing Amy knows for sure is that meeting Nick has made her choices much more complicated. As she tries to map out her future, she must navigate lingering, complex relationships from her past as well as surprisingly large doses of sexism in the workplace. All the while, Kramer keeps the music of the late 1980s and early ’90s (such as Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” and Pearl Jam’s “Even Flow”) playing in the story’s background—so much so that some readers may feel compelled to sing along. As the author transports these readers to the grunge era, she also explores difficult issues surrounding social inequality, infidelity, and, especially, coming-of-age. Meanwhile, the romantic suspense and social calamities that pepper the narrative keep it moving along at an engaging pace. As Amy struggles to find the wisdom and maturity she needs to sort out her future, readers will find themselves in her cheering section. 

A captivating tale about growing up best suited for nostalgic members of Generation X.

Pub Date: April 25, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4348-4832-1

Page Count: 312

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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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Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s...

HOME FRONT

 The traumatic homecoming of a wounded warrior.

The daughter of alcoholics who left her orphaned at 17, Jolene “Jo” Zarkades found her first stable family in the military: She’s served over two decades, first in the army, later with the National Guard. A helicopter pilot stationed near Seattle, Jo copes as competently at home, raising two daughters, Betsy and Lulu, while trying to dismiss her husband Michael’s increasing emotional distance. Jo’s mettle is sorely tested when Michael informs her flatly that he no longer loves her. Four-year-old Lulu clamors for attention while preteen Betsy, mean-girl-in-training, dismisses as dweeby her former best friend, Seth, son of Jo’s confidante and fellow pilot, Tami. Amid these challenges comes the ultimate one: Jo and Tami are deployed to Iraq. Michael, with the help of his mother, has to take over the household duties, and he rapidly learns that parenting is much harder than his wife made it look. As Michael prepares to defend a PTSD-afflicted veteran charged with Murder I for killing his wife during a dissociative blackout, he begins to understand what Jolene is facing and to revisit his true feelings for her. When her helicopter is shot down under insurgent fire, Jo rescues Tami from the wreck, but a young crewman is killed. Tami remains in a coma and Jo, whose leg has been amputated, returns home to a difficult rehabilitation on several fronts. Her nightmares in which she relives the crash and other horrors she witnessed, and her pain, have turned Jo into a person her daughters now fear (which in the case of bratty Betsy may not be such a bad thing). Jo can't forgive Michael for his rash words. Worse, she is beginning to remind Michael more and more of his homicide client. Characterization can be cursory: Michael’s earlier callousness, left largely unexplained, undercuts the pathos of his later change of heart. 

Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s aftermath.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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