THESE DREAMS OF YOU

With this book, set against the backdrop of Obama’s ascendancy to the presidency, Erickson weaves a complex and imaginative...

In Erickson’s (Zeroville, 2007, etc.) latest, the lives of Zan and Viv have imploded in the wake of their adoption of Sheba, an Ethiopian toddler “supernaturally cognizant beyond the span of such a short life.”

Alexander Nordhoc—Zan—is a novelist, but he’s written nothing new for years. Instead he teaches and works as a disk jockey at a pirate radio station. Viv is a gifted photographer, one whose most prominent work was plagiarized by a celebrity poseur. Viv is indifferent. The Nordhocs are also too broke to sue. In fact, they face foreclosure on their California home, a house that’s also, and symbolically, rat-infested. Into this mess comes a missive from J. Wilkie Brown, occupier of the J. Wilkie Brown Chair of the University of London, and Viv’s one-time lover. Brown offers Zan £3,500 to lecture on the “Novel as a Literary Form Facing Obsolescence in the Twenty-First Century.” Too little to rescue them, the money is also too much to refuse, especially since Viv, white-angst guilty, wants to accompany Zan to England and fly on to Ethiopia and find Sheba’s mother. Chapter-less, a stream of interconnected vignettes, Erickson’s narrative segues toward surrealism while mimicking the chaotic interior emotions of real life. Threads and characters serendipitously stumble through a missing-link chain of coincidences, with mazes and labyrinths both real and imagined. Erickson even references Mussolini’s use of mustard gas and a pizza-delivery mugging evoking Do the Right Thing, all while Zan dreams in parallel of a novelist who plagiarizes the future. The story is dense with cultural references and there’s a beautiful, elegiac remembrance of Robert Kennedy, his campaign and assassination, from Jasmine, a grey-eyed Ethiopian woman whom RFK met while in London. Later, Jasmine will work for a Bowie-like rock musician, during which time she becomes pregnant with Molly, who becomes Sheba’s temporary nanny during the Nordhoc’s sojourn.

With this book, set against the backdrop of Obama’s ascendancy to the presidency, Erickson weaves a complex and imaginative literary tapestry about family and identity.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60945-063-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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