THE SLOW NATIVES

The work of this Australian writer (Vanishing Points, 1992, etc.)—in a diction studded with some breathtaking images and conceits—continues to strengthen in depth and focus, and Astley again penetrates the shrouding canopies of loneliness to find the hope of rescue. Among those existing miserably amid ``excitability and want'' (a keystone indictment from Hunting the Wild Pineapple, 1991): a mild music teacher and his fearful/angry teenaged son; a priest and a bewildered nun; a desiccated aging single woman and a battered teenager. The four days during which Keith, 15-year-old son of piano- teacher Bernard Leverson, is unaccountably absent will seem in retrospect to have been years—of nonloving. Where is the love between father and son? To Keith, angry, bruised, and nasty, his father offers no ``rules,'' no safety; and mother Iris is having an affair with a family friend—actually a comically unlustful and boring friend. Bernard will speak and write of his worries to Fr. Doug Lingard, a Catholic priest, himself a tired victim of ``spiritual weightlessness.'' But Bernard finds everywhere ``this rolling dullness in human relationships.'' At a convent, where he gives exams in music, he witnesses the emotional aridity of a nun struggling with an empty heart, then escapes the screaming need of an achingly sad teacher. Meanwhile, on the lam, are Keith—as well as teenaged ``Chookie,'' forever unloved, a muddled Calaban, fleeing from a crime of rape. By the catastrophic close, a family is restored to love and the priest will know the brush of blessing in the act of ``restoring hope in another.'' Astley's style is occasionally choked perhaps, but also choked often with brilliants (on arriving patrons in a gloomy lounge: ``The room filled up with crustaceans—varnished hard-jawed mums and small-bit farmers all coated with the same malty staleness''). With humor and bite, then, some deep discoveries about shallow lives.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 1993

ISBN: 0-399-13875-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1993

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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