An often exemplary novel featuring characterizations that make the story feel real.

Much Loose Change

An Asian-Indian woman finds herself at the mercy of a hit man for a Native American drug gang in this thriller.

In the beginning of  Pass’ (Lilith: The Descendant, 2016) novel, readers meet three seemingly disparate people whose lives revolve around a Tohono O’odham reservation in Arizona: John Moon, aka Much Loose Change, a White Mountain Apache tribal lawyer still mourning the death of his wife, Sarah; Samuel Joaquin, a Native American hit man for his brother’s drug-smuggling gang who moonlights as a serial killer; and Alison Steele, the half-Lakota, half-Chinese owner of a successful business that supplies cigarette girls to casinos on reservations across the country. When Charlie Benz, who manages the casino on the Tohono O’odham reservation, tries to buy her out, it sets a chain of events in motion that leads to Alison running for her life from the psychotic Samuel. She’s only saved by the timely intervention of John Moon, who bestirs himself to become her protector. Hard-bitten Alison, a born survivor, finds herself falling for John, who’s willing to come out of self-imposed emotional exile in order to be with her. But can he protect Alison from Samuel—or an even worse fate? Pass delivers an ingenious novel in which the characters have rare depth and compelling back stories. For instance, readers learn that John’s grandfather was a Navajo code writer during World War II, and that strong-willed Alison has gone through several different careers and values her independence. Even Samuel, a character who flirts with cliché, gets fresh life in the details of his Native American background. Overall, the reservation atmosphere gives this book a unique feel. Only at the end does the story falter with a double whammy climax that doesn’t feel properly set up. 

An often exemplary novel featuring characterizations that make the story feel real.

Pub Date: March 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-62926-0

Page Count: 266

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 15, 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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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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