An engrossing, hallucinatory relationship story.

OPEN MY EYES

A young man struggles to articulate his chaotic but numbed feelings in this debut novel.

Seventeen-year-old Eddie falls headlong for Elizabeth, a freshman who plays in the school band with him. As they begin dating and grow closer, he’s as awkward and self-conscious as he is earnest about his first relationship: “In the beginning was Elizabeth, and Elizabeth was in light, and Elizabeth was light.” However, it turns out that circumstances have effectively blurred the line between fantasy and reality for Eddie; his father died years ago, and to this day, the young man addresses his thoughts to the void where his dad should be. His mother responds to the loss by clinging to Eddie in ways that slowly become sinister. And since the fateful car accident, he’s been put on mind-altering medication for unspecified reasons, which causes him to lurch through life in a physical, mental, and emotional fog: He assumed the medication was punishment for his disobedience, he explains, “the longest punishment in childhood history.” However, Elizabeth cuts through his detachment, shining in his memories like a divine being. Yet the significance of her presence in his life raises the stakes of their relationship in untenable ways. Typical hurdles, such as uncomfortable meet-the-parents dinners, assume a mythical awfulness in Eddie’s fragmented neuroses and visions, and he can barely enjoy his newfound happiness under the looming fear that he’ll somehow taint or pollute it. Hahn writes in a clipped, frenetic manner that effectively conveys his narrator’s mental state. Recurring images of snow, fire, and blood give the book religious overtones that feel almost medieval despite Eddie’s refusal to attend church with his mother. Other symbols crowd the story but in a manner that rarely feels heavy-handed; in a particularly engaging scene, for example, Eddie and Elizabeth argue as they watch an inflatable fun house collapse on a group of screaming children. Collectively, the author’s choices create a satisfying sensory experience as the protagonist seeks a real and present version of himself.

An engrossing, hallucinatory relationship story.

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947041-28-8

Page Count: 162

Publisher: Running Wild Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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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