Miller raises tantalizing questions about the ethics of love, but the actual drama involving her decent, troubled characters...

THE LAKE SHORE LIMITED

An ambitious exploration of the interaction between choice and random chance in human relationships, from Miller (The Senator’s Wife, 2008, etc.).

The book centers on four characters’ reactions to the play that one of them has scripted about the aftermath of a terrorist attack. Leslie attends the play of the title with her doctor husband and their architect friend Sam, with whom she once shared vague romantic longings. Playwright Billy was Leslie’s younger brother’s live-in girlfriend when he died six years earlier on one of the 9/11 planes. Still grieving for Gus, Leslie assumes Billy feels the same sense of loss and is disturbed by Billy’s play, which describes the ambivalence of the survivor. The play’s hero is a man who learns that a bomb has gone off on the train on which his wife was traveling. Horrified to feel relief that his wife’s death would free him to marry his lover, he sends the lover away, and the play ends with his ambiguous greeting to his wife when she returns. As Leslie struggles to understand what the play means about Billy and Gus’s relationship, the actor Rafe, who is playing the lead, also finds the play hitting close to home. His wife is dying of ALS, and he is committed to her care. After he sleeps with Billy one night, he brings the loss and guilt he feels about his wife to his performance, the brilliance of which resuscitates his flagging career. Billy has written the play to clear the air. She had decided to leave Gus before he died, but Leslie sucked her into the role of grieving lover. Now Leslie throws Billy together with Sam. He is immediately smitten, but Billy resists. An architect whose first wife died of breast cancer and whose second marriage ended in divorce, Sam allows chance to take its course.

Miller raises tantalizing questions about the ethics of love, but the actual drama involving her decent, troubled characters never rises above a simmer.

Pub Date: April 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-307-26421-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2010

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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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