ANOTHER’S FOOL

An intriguing but uneven Red Scare tale.

A man attempts to throw a music festival while informing for the FBI in this novella.

New York, 1953. Two days after surviving his first police raid on a gay club, music manager Bruce Harnes is sent by his boss to Westchester County to the home of wealthy widow Dora Berlin. Berlin asks young Bruce to put on a summer festival on the grounds of her estate, something that he sees as an exciting niche project to help make a place for himself in the music world: “A music festival outdoors on a great estate! So much to do! Dates; artists; programs; publicity. Parking! My God, chairs! My God, what if it rained?” It appears to be a dream come true until the FBI turns up, armed with Bruce’s sexual orientation as leverage. Because of Berlin’s long-standing ties to certain Russians (she had a relationship with a prominent Russian inventor that only ended via the intervention of Stalin), the bureau demands that Bruce serve as a confidential informer, keeping tabs on Berlin and passing intelligence to his FBI handlers. Now Bruce must organize a festival (with his ex-lover as the music director, no less) while navigating the world of amateur espionage with his benefactor on one side and the FBI on the other. Meyers (I Remember Caramoor, 2017, etc.) writes in a confident and stylish prose, evoking the setting and time period with concision: “There’s glamour to New York’s early winter dusk, the city’s nerves and energies throbbing as people stride onto the pavements eager to get on with it.” Despite the rather absurd premise (this is not a comedic work), the author’s general disinterest in genre conventions should suck readers in—if only to find out where this is going. Some of the players (the FBI agents, in particular) are quite flat, and the ending comes quickly. Several characters and events would have benefited from a little more fleshing out. Even so, the book is a strange enough brew of elements and authorial choices to leave a distinctive impression.

An intriguing but uneven Red Scare tale.

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63492-732-1

Page Count: 87

Publisher: Booklocker

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2017

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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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