A moving, if occasionally flawed, exploration of one woman’s attempt to conquer lifelong anxieties.


In Evans’ debut novel, a former teacher, haunted by a phantom, learns to move beyond fear and toward acceptance.

Katy Welborn McAndrews is a breast cancer survivor, but despite being cancer-free for three years, her doctor advises her against getting pregnant, as it could raise the risk that the cancer will return. Then Katy receives a visit from the spirit of her beloved grandmother, who died 11 years ago. Despite her death, it appears that Gram hasn’t lost the usual spring in her step. During her frequent visitations and reminiscences, she and Katy pore through their pasts, uncovering old hurts and fears along the way. Despite the somewhat familiar nature of the narrative, Evans throws in a few twists and turns; for example, an early plot thread about Katy’s uncle Rollie and younger sister Wendy appears to be heading toward predictable territory, but takes an unexpected, sharp turn to become an exploration of heredity, and how a child’s perceptions shape the adult they later become. Although the fearful nature of Evans’ protagonist can be occasionally wearying, Katy still comes across as a realistic portrayal of a trauma survivor, and her steps toward freedom as she escapes the shackles of her past feel earned. The ghostly Gram is also a fully realized character, offering verve, timidity, and regret in varying measures as Katy’s understanding of her deepens. That said, other secondary players feel flat and underdeveloped, and the chronology of the narrative feels unclear. Overall, though, Katy and Gram’s story has moments of wit and sublime epiphany.

A moving, if occasionally flawed, exploration of one woman’s attempt to conquer lifelong anxieties.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73323-490-0

Page Count: 356

Publisher: StoneArch Bridge Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2019

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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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