A clear, inspiring story about needing a bit of hope to cross the distance.

HOPSCOTCH

In his latest novel, Cushman (Hospital Work, 2013, etc.) introduces a minor miracle into a staid hospital setting, and magic happens. 

Dr. Boles “couldn’t quite figure out how, or why, such a thing would be here.” Outside the entrance to a Greensboro, North Carolina, hospital is a hopscotch outline, its “colors of yellow, red, green and blue” adorned with the playful challenge Try It. Walter Winslow of the hospital’s board of trustees isn’t having it and straightaway calls the housekeeping department to erase it. Somehow, the hopscotch board keeps reappearing. Inexplicable but welcome, its presence comes as a mysterious relief to a large cast of hard-luck cases: a sick little girl who can barely remember what it’s like not to be sick, a bitter veteran who left his legs in Iraq, a beleaguered CEO who can’t make the hospital as successful as the board would like, a local reporter with a marriage on the rocks. Once the hopscotch chalk has come to stay, things change. A stiff-shouldered doctor “jumped his way across the boxes, before heading to his car”; an old man with dementia recognizes his wife again as he sees her hopping along the board; pediatricians write their patients prescriptions reading “have fun, go outside and play 2 x a day.” John, the janitor so often tasked with graffiti removal, briefly considers hiding somewhere to see who keeps drawing this one on the sidewalk, but he decides that “life, he knew, was short on mysteries, and this was one he didn’t mind leaving unsolved.” Cushman has written an unabashedly inspirational novel, one that aims to quicken the reader’s spirits and deliver exemplary lessons through the eyes of characters we can’t help but pity and feel fondness toward. Miracles can still take place, even in the dourest spots. Some readers may find it implausible that a thing so small as a chalk game could bring such joy to a diverse and embittered group, but others will find the book uplifting.

A clear, inspiring story about needing a bit of hope to cross the distance. 

Pub Date: May 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-60489-177-5

Page Count: 146

Publisher: Livingston Press

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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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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