An engrossing, relatable tale about letting go.

CHASING THE LAST WHALE

The second book in Wictor’s (Ghosts and Ballyhoo, 2013, etc.) Ghosts trilogy tells the darkly humorous tale of an unusual friendship between a quadriplegic and a depressed copywriter.

In the second book in a uniquely ambitious trilogy composed of a memoir, a novel and a diary, Wictor expands on characters from the memoir to craft a story of both barely repressed anger and uncommon love. Narrated by Elliot Finell, a 36-year-old marketing copywriter, the book begins with his first conversation with Trey Gillespie, a man who fell off of a stool 22 years ago and lost the use of his arms and legs, with sensations in his limbs replaced by constant pain. Trey, it seems, has the ability to get people to open up. Even the very private Elliot discovers he can’t help but tell Trey all sorts of private things. Following that first meeting, Elliot confronts his girlfriend, Gary Pruett (yes, like a guy’s name), starting an argument that rattles his relationship and causes him to have a heart attack. As the story progresses, readers follow Elliot during this difficult point in his life, learning that he’s had a poor relationship with his family since he was a child and that his siblings teased him for being fat. He’s struggling to deal with losing the only woman he’d ever loved, whom he cared enough about to argue with her over something she refused to deal with. Elliot also deepens his relationship with Trey, whose ominous warning at their first meeting—“I had enough of this shit”—steadily proves to be more than mere words as the bitter man in the wheelchair asks an unthinkable favor of his new friend. Throughout, it’s a surprising, difficult yet intensely honest story filled with compelling characters; the way personal details are exposed through voices and actions—perhaps thanks to Wictor’s memoir-writing experience—may make readers wonder if these are real people he’s writing about. Although frequently dramatic, the story is, like life, peppered with a healthy dose of humor, sometimes even in the most trying situations, making the story seem all the more real and its impact all the more heart-wrenching.

An engrossing, relatable tale about letting go.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2013

ISBN: 978-0615819143

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Thomas Wictor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2013

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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