A witty, sensitive story that will satisfy discerning fans of family dramas.

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HOW VIRGINITY ALMOST KILLED ME

A comic examination of a large Irish family’s struggle to maintain their old-fashioned religious and cultural traditions in modern-day California. 

With her lingering stutter and utter lack of fashion sense, everyone expects 28-year-old Agnes Anne O’Neil to remain under her parents’ roof forever. But she has other plans: after years of inertia, she’s decided to obtain her real estate license so that she can get out of the back office at her father’s real estate firm. She decides to apply her increased earnings toward getting cosmetic surgery on her nose and chin. She also declares that, going forward, she’d prefer to be called “Anne.” In short order, the formerly timid Anne bleaches her hair blonde, makes two successful real estate sales, and meets a new guy. Meanwhile, her parents grow apoplectic because she’s no longer the rigid Irish Catholic isolationist that they thought she was. They call her cosmetic surgery self-mutilation, and they can’t stand that she has a Jewish boyfriend, Sheldon Goldberg; they also lament that Anne isn’t cultivating a life more like her sister Katie’s. Unbeknownst to them, however, Katie’s husband, Bruno, has been harassing Anne with sexual come-ons and innuendos. As Anne attempts to resist his advances, he begins devising schemes to make her life very, very difficult. In this debut novel, Hartmann takes what appears at first to be a romantic comedy and turns it, unexpectedly, into a thriller. As a result, there are many slapstick and laugh-out-loud funny moments throughout the tale, such as an elaborate prank in a church, but there’s also a darker undercurrent—a constant dread that Anne’s misgivings about Bruno might actually be right on the money. Still, the novel is filled with hilarious misunderstandings and moments of family strife, including a disastrous dinner in which Sheldon first meets Anne’s family. Overall, this fast-paced, plot-heavy tale is as riveting as it is cheeky.   

A witty, sensitive story that will satisfy discerning fans of family dramas.   

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-937818-42-5

Page Count: -

Publisher: Sand Hill Review Press

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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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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