Full of sitcom moments and windy dialogue—aging chick lit at its most superficial.

GETTING TO HAPPY

McMillan’s sequel to her popular Waiting To Exhale picks up 15 years later in the lives of the four Phoenix friends—Savannah, Gloria, Bernadine and Robin—still looking for love and happiness as they hit middle age.

It’s 2005 and each of the women is facing a crisis. Formerly overweight Gloria has found domestic bliss until her beloved husband dies in a drive-by shooting on their anniversary. Then she learns she’s about to lose the lease on her wildly successful salon, and that her son Tarik’s unlikable wife turns out to be a child-abusing, law-breaking adulteress. Gloria starts packing the pounds back on. News producer Savannah is newly lonely after divorcing her husband of ten years because she’s bored with him, although his addiction to Internet porn also factors in. Instead of allowing her hard-up sister’s troubled son to visit, Savannah treats herself to a jaunt to Paris, but not before she has a dream blind date with a handsome retired doctor. Shopaholic Robin is the never-married mother of 15-year-old Sparrow, a nauseatingly perfect daughter. (Actually, the fact that none of these women have children who talk back or rebel or disappoint like real children may be the real fantasy wish fulfillment for readers, not the sexy romances.) How Robin’s salary as an underwriter affords her the luxuries and savings she has amassed is glossed over, but then her company downsizes her out of her job. Soon after reconnecting with a “blast from the past” who has shed 40 pounds to become the love of her life, she decides to become a teacher. Bernadine is still recovering from the annulment of her second marriage six years earlier. Her “husband” was a bigamist who swindled her out of a chunk of her alimony settlement from first husband John. She’s closed her café and become addicted to pills, but John and their kids support her when she goes into rehab.

Full of sitcom moments and windy dialogue—aging chick lit at its most superficial. 

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-670-02204-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 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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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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