Rife with female frivolity, punchy one-liners, and sex. Margolis (Apocalipstick, 2003, etc.) is at her best when she veers...

BREAKFAST AT STEPHANIE’S

Love conquers all, though you’ll wish it wouldn’t.

Stephanie Glassman is a single mother working a scraped-together string of part-time jobs while feeling guilty about leaving Jake, her increasingly bratty toddler, at home with an indulgent nanny. Stephanie is a talented singer who has all but given up on her dream of a musical career when she runs into her old crush Frank, who comes complete with fame, good looks, and the irksome incompatible fiancée. His presence at one of Stephanie’s small singing gigs makes her day. Meanwhile, friends encourage Stephanie to send CDs out to agents, and Jake’s father, Albert, pops in for the holidays with Sunnie, his stereotypically ditzy girlfriend. We learn that though Albert is a self-centered womanizer, he genuinely cares for his child and strives to be a good father. When Sunnie finds herself pursuing an old flame, Stephanie and Albert succumb again to their physical attraction, and Albert even spits out the idea of marriage and their possible future as a happy family. The story lags as Stephanie repeatedly runs into Frank (newly single), and discusses her love-life options with friend Lizzie (the unappreciated wife and mother) and Cass (the fun-lovin’ single girl). Eventually, Stephanie gets that big call from an agent. Thinking that she may land the lead in a musical, she finds herself congratulated by her squealing friends, family, and Frank, but, alas, not by Albert. She’s disappointed to learn that her supposed break involves providing vocals for a lip-synching Hollywood diva named Katherine Martinez (wittily tagged “K-Mart”). So Stephanie makes a series of questionable choices, driven by her need to make a living and her concern for her son. A subplot involving Lizzie and her cheating husband has an unnecessarily tidy ending, as does our main story.

Rife with female frivolity, punchy one-liners, and sex. Margolis (Apocalipstick, 2003, etc.) is at her best when she veers from the shenanigans and lets us glimpse our heroine in her poignant everyday struggles.

Pub Date: June 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-385-33733-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delta

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2004

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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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