LATE-K LUNACY

A passionately cautionary eco-tainment tale that cross-pollinates an impressive garden of genres.

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Students and faculty at a rural Ohio college unite against an underhanded industrial mining scheme on protected land—unaware that a larger catastrophe looms.

In this novel, Gilligan University is an enclave of multicultural, progressive thought in Appalachian southern Ohio (those cognizant of the region will recognize a disguised Ohio University). Katja Nickleby was a globe-trotting academic whose posthumously published manuscript Over the Cliff became a 21st-century Silent Spring of climate change. By 2014, her protégé (and former lover), Stefan Friemanis, is a professor at Gilligan, smitten with a female student despite the taboos of such an affair. Meanwhile, another student discovers a dirty scheme by uncouth energy tycoon Jasper Morse to secure mining rights to a small but cherished old-growth forest deeded to the college—despite Gilligan’s vow to embrace “sustainability,” not fossil fuels. DIY investigations by Stefan’s undergraduate friends find vast, Koch brothers–like fortunes hidden offshore by Morse, tentacles of corruption reaching from a Gilligan administrator to the Ohio governor, and a Mafia-like cabal of Cleveland Greek Cypriots (Buckeye State shoutouts, even absurdist ones like that, abound). As events escalate to “monkey wrenching” sabotage and campus riots, the tale unfolds not only via Stefan’s journals, but also through the eyes of Hannah McGibbon, an erstwhile student now looking back from the 2030s—the drastically changed era forecast by Katja (remember her?). Bernard (Hope and Hard Times, 2010) wields a wise and skillful voice in this intricate eco-fiction, even as the narrative goes through more metamorphoses (international thriller, college-town dramedy, dystopian/sci-fi prophecy) than the volatile weather in the wounded world he invokes. Even with one climax on a literal dark and stormy night, the author’s erudite but never dry scholarly voice smooths the rough patches, including a finale/epilogue that’s like another book altogether (one of those many post-apocalypse cautionary yarns at that). Helpful essay inserts, footnotes, endnotes, and even charts and graphs present Bernard’s inconvenient truths.

A passionately cautionary eco-tainment tale that cross-pollinates an impressive garden of genres.

Pub Date: April 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-927032-84-8

Page Count: 428

Publisher: Petra Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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A LITTLE LIFE

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

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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