Quietly absorbing tales with indelible characters.


This debut collection of 10 short stories boasts elements of magic, SF, and compassion.

Characters in these tales, which are predominantly set in Madras (aka Chennai), India, sometimes encounter the otherworldly. In “Upper Class,” for example, young Alauddin is an orphan serving coffee to train passengers traveling from Madras to Calcutta. But he does something extraordinary when he, draped in a chaadar (shawl), steps off the moving train and seemingly flies away. Similarly, in the eerie “Blood Red and Black,” a house in a small community is now vacant after two people committed suicide there. Later, one boy sees house lizards inside—pale, bloodless creatures that may be more than simple reptiles. Ghosh’s succinct prose ensures that the stories as well as instances of horror remain largely ambiguous. But passages are descriptive; the author’s SF outing, in which astronauts in 2034 endure an unnerving excursion to Mars, is filled with rich details. Nevertheless, though tales of magic and the like are delightful, standouts in this collection are grounded in reality. The book opens with “Scarlet Tanager,” in which New Jerseyan Swapan Bose, piloting his new drone, spots a nest of baby birds high in a tree. But when the mother bird disappears, the Bose family looks for a way to feed the hatchlings. Another tale, “The Earthen Moon,” is a pleasant comedy featuring Madras ninth grader Sam, whose surname, incidentally, is also Bose. His school’s upcoming dance-drama could be a chance for Sam to get close to Radha Iyer, a “dainty, elegant and tall” South Indian girl. But with a principal who frowns on any male-female interaction, Sam may find proximity to Radha an unachievable goal. Ghosh’s stories are easy reads and free of profanities or graphic imagery. Regardless, there’s an impressive range of characters, from a cruel father who goes to great lengths to prohibit his son from running away again to a South Korean woman whose inheritance from her estranged Indian father is more heartfelt than lavish.

Quietly absorbing tales with indelible characters.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-943471-40-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Azalea Art Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 12

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • National Book Award Finalist


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

Did you like this book?

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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

Did you like this book?