A smart, highly entertaining update on a classic story.


DeRoche reimagines Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in modern Los Angeles.

The story starts, like Twain’s, in St. Petersburg, Missouri. There, Huckleberry Finn is looking to get loose of his abusive father, Pap, who has a get-rich-quick scheme that involves moving to Los Angeles. Huck can’t get away before Pap bundles them both into their camper to head west. Soon, the youngster finds out that his father is involved in a drug deal, which goes sour. However, Huck and his new friend, Tom Sawyer, find a way for the LAPD to capture the drug kingpin; the boys collect a reward while Pap goes on the lam. A judge then puts Huck in the care of a lesbian couple, Miss Watson and Ms. Douglas, who try to “civilize” Huck, just as their namesakes did in the original novel. Huck also finds himself drawn to his new friend, Miguel, a stable hand and undocumented immigrant. Pap had always told Huck that so-called “Mexigrants” were ruining the country and that homosexuality was evil—but in Los Angeles, Huck sees the wrongness of these notions. Pap resurfaces to try to get some of Huck’s reward, and he injures Ms. Watson and Ms. Douglas in the process. Miguel defends Huck and fends off Pap, who appears to be dead. Because Miguel is undocumented, he can’t tell his side of the story to police. He and Huck wind up traversing LA’s man-made rivers, meeting helpful folks and rapscallions. Overall, this is a charming, politically minded tale. What DeRoche truly understands about the Huck Finn character is his outsider’s perspective. For example, the book addresses a range of explosive topics, such as religion, revolution, electoral politics, and even a bit of reality television, but because Huck is encountering all of these things for the first time, he has no preconceived notions about any of them. This allows the author to mine different situations for pointed humor without ever turning the narrative into an obvious polemic. Along the way, debut illustrator González’s occasional black-and-white, woodcut-style images are nice additions.

A smart, highly entertaining update on a classic story.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9992776-7-6

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Redtail Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2017

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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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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...


Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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