Despite this novel’s slow start, Peter and Sam are a likable duo, and readers will be on the edges of their seats as they...

PREMIERE

A LOVE STORY

The play’s the thing in this enchanting starter to Ewens’ (Catalina Kiss, 2012) romance series.

Samantha “Sam” Cathner is both grateful and nervous when her childhood friend Peter Everoad returns to California to work on his new play, Looking In. She’s the assistant creative director of the Pasadena Playhouse, and she trusts that anything Peter writes will draw a crowd there. But it turns out that the script is about Peter’s unfinished emotional business with Sam—and even he doesn’t know how the story will end, even as he’s writing the final scenes. It’s a tightly crafted premise, and the story ends with Peter moving to New York City to escape the aftermath of his father’s suicide, leaving Sam brokenhearted just as she and Peter were becoming more than friends. The tension between them is most convincing during play rehearsals: Sam is livid as she watches a professional actor portray her character, “Sally,” as a superficial debutante, while Peter instructs the actor playing “Phillip” to make the audience sympathize with him. However, the novel’s detours into the nuts and bolts of theater production, although detailed and authentic, tend to stall the action. The second act is more successful, as it brings the couple’s lost love into the present moment, with a touch of Hollywood romance. Peter chooses a historic movie theater on Catalina Island, where he and Sam used to spend vacations, to stage a grand gesture that would make anyone swoon. But an unfortunate twist leaves Sam in the same place that Peter left her in years ago, stuck by herself just when she needs him most—only this time, Peter can’t use his youth, or his father, as an excuse. In a character-defining moment, he’ll have to decide how their love will continue after the curtain falls.

Despite this novel’s slow start, Peter and Sam are a likable duo, and readers will be on the edges of their seats as they wait to see if the play has a happy ending.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0990857112

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Premiere

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2014

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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