by Thomas William Simpson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 10, 1994
Once again, Simpson (The Gypsy Storyteller, 1993, etc.) takes a popular form—previously the family dynasty saga, here the political biography—and tweaks it to produce giggles but few belly laughs. The novel opens on January 20, 2001, with political reporter Jack Steel standing outside of the rustic island home of 32-year- old president-elect William Conrad Brant MacKenzie. Steel explains ``into the camera'' that there are several controversial factors surrounding MacKenzie's election and promises to delve into the background of ``The Last Innocent Man in America.'' What follows is a mix of reporting on MacKenzie's family background (beginning with his foul-mouthed fat-cat great-grandfather, who once sent a postcard from New Zealand reading, ``I have come halfway around the world...Big fucking deal'') and excerpts from the journals that MacKenzie has kept since he was 10, as well as the occasional exchange between Steel and his subject. Simpson perfectly re- creates the tone of modern, and presumably future, television journalism; his Steel both takes an overly familiar air and insists that he has played no part in the story itself, which turns out to be patently untrue. MacKenzie, however, is never clearly rendered and resembles various political figures at different points in the book. He is alternately portrayed as a political blank slate (Quayle); a wealthy family's son (Bush); a loose cannon running on an independent ticket (Perot); and the author of a book on the environment (Gore). His journals also reveal his single-minded devotion to his now-deceased wife, Dawn, and a childhood friend notes that she expected Dawn, not her husband, to be president some day (guess who). Clearly this slippery hold on MacKenzie's personality is meant to reveal something about the intersection of politics and journalism, but it reveals nothing interesting and instead weakens the satire. Original concepts that fizzle, from an author whose best work is probably still to come.
Pub Date: Aug. 10, 1994
Page Count: 416
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1994
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by Hanya Yanagihara ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 10, 2015
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
Page Count: 720
Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015
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by Kristin Hannah ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 1, 2006
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
Page Count: 400
Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005
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