A sometimes-engaging story that suffers from a disjointed presentation.

Fast

Cea’s debut novel, an allegorical adaptation of the legend of Faust, tells a story about the difficult choices that face people in the modern world.

The book starts with a preface by the author and a prologue from the narrator’s point of view, explaining the philosophical underpinnings of the story to come. Cea notes that there will be many allusions to classic literature and film, which he says will enrich the narrative. His unnamed narrator then begins the tale in earnest, looking back on his own mistakes in life and pondering the context for his downfall. The first half of the book is the most engaging, showing the narrator’s upbringing in New York City by a strong mother and a father who was kind to his family and friends but unrelentingly brutal to those he saw as cruel. The narrator was a bright kid, but not terribly interested in what school had to offer—until a teacher showed him how to question his surroundings in a more intellectual manner. There are some beautiful moments here, especially when the narrator tries to understand his father’s dual nature. The second half of the book is more contrived, as the narrator settles into the Faust plotline. He’s talked into buying a horse and gets involved in a gambling scheme that’s backed by organized crime. This interrupts a developing storyline from the first half, in which the narrator gets married and is forced to adapt to the fact of his father’s death. But although the author introduces some colorful characters in the latter half of the book, the narrator’s family barely appears in it. The author’s motivations for joining the scheme are attributed to his need to get ahead for his family’s sake, but readers never get to see that family life in order to put that decision in context. He winds up in prison, and after long passages of debating different schools of philosophical thought, he ends up leading a different life than the one he envisioned. The novel’s frequent allusions to other works, which the author footnotes and explains, wind up being more of a distraction than a useful addition.

A sometimes-engaging story that suffers from a disjointed presentation.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-692-57709-7

Page Count: 258

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2016

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

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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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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