A light, accessible coming-of-age story well-suited for beach and romance fans.

Water Baby

A novel follows a young woman in the 1960s who dates all the wrong guys as she bungles her way into adulthood.

Ali Abrams is a young college graduate whose family spends its summers on idyllic Fire Island. The clan’s tranquility is threatened by the actions of urban developer Robert Moses, who wants to commandeer the island for his own purposes. Amid this political strife, Ali struggles to find her own place in her social, family, and professional life. Ali falls hard for an older man on the island, a singer by the name of Nick Rose. Nick indulges Ali with a few dalliances, but he is clearly less than committed. Ali eventually moves on, developing relationships with one ill-suited man after another. First there is bad boy Eric London, who can’t keep his eyes from wandering, and then a long string of one-night stands and short-lived romances. After watching Ali stumble with one man after another, her friend Jordan Kaplan accuses her of acting like Scarlett O’Hara, squandering the affection of the only man who is truly devoted to her (Jordan himself). He convinces Ali to see a therapist to deal with her self-destructive behavior. The therapist persuades Ali to take a hiatus from her fruitless dating and focus on herself and her burgeoning advertising career. As she travels between Park Avenue and Fire Island, Manhattan offices and island cocktail parties, the reader can only hope that Ali will get out of her own way and attain personal happiness. The book delivers plenty of vibrant historical details about Fire Island, Manhattan, New York City socialites, and the ad industry of the ’60s. At one point, Ali rhapsodizes about the Rainbow Room (“Breathtaking. Magical. Sophisticated. Art deco. Big band orchestra live, revolving dance floor, wraparound views of the glittering skyline, the Hudson, the Statue of Liberty. It defined elegance and romance right out of a Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers movie”). But Israelson’s (co-author of Lovesick: The Marilyn Syndrome, 1991, etc.) tale is as much about one woman’s personal journey as it is about the pressure to be desirable, to find love, and to conform to society’s expectations. Although Ali’s poor choices start to feel repetitive and frustrating as the story progresses, the accessible prose should keep readers turning pages in the anticipation that Ali will finally find fulfillment.

A light, accessible coming-of-age story well-suited for beach and romance fans.

Pub Date: July 20, 2017

ISBN: 9780999004302

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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