A candid portrait of a man torn between two worlds, whose struggle will reverberate in readers’ souls.

THE SOUND OF ONE HORSE DANCING

When a young, wildly successful ad executive is unexpectedly fired from a 1970s Madison Avenue ad agency, he must come to terms with his closeted identity as a Stonewall-era gay man and differentiate the truly meaningful from the inconsequential in Baker’s debut.

Tim Halladay is nothing less than the golden boy at his high-profile New York ad agency. Recently promoted to vice president at the age of 27, he is the youngest company officer. Immersed in an opulent world of three-martini lunches and exorbitant expense accounts, Tim is living the dream. But when he is unexpectedly fired, his cloud bursts and he comes crashing back down to Earth. He soon realizes that, with a mere $300 in savings, his sizable credit card debt has morphed into a menacing leviathan that threatens to turn his world upside down. With no truly close friends to turn to, Tim is forced to look within himself for solace. At this point in the book the author begins a series of flashbacks; these detailed memories give readers an expansive depth of insight into Tim’s character and how he weathers the soul-searching dilemma in which he now finds himself. Baker nimbly leads readers back and forth through time, interweaving the defining moments of this young man’s life into the events of a long weekend. As Tim’s dysfunctional family and stuffy upbringing come into focus, the reason he’s chosen to keep his sexuality hidden becomes increasingly obvious: His father has long made it clear that Tim’s penchant for theater and his not-so-macho demeanor are utter disappointments. Tim will never fit neatly into his father’s country club mold, and they both know it. Nor is his mother much help, largely powerless in the patriarchal culture of 1950s Connecticut. Tim’s rejection of his father’s ideal has heavily influenced the man he has become. Readers from all backgrounds will find themselves empathizing with Baker’s protagonist as he struggles to reconcile his high-profile life with his true identity. 

A candid portrait of a man torn between two worlds, whose struggle will reverberate in readers’ souls.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-1450271271

Page Count: 212

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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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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