Miner does much better with her evocation of place than with her characterizations, which are shallow.


In her eighth novel, Miner (Range of Light, 1998, etc.) celebrates friendship among a group of lesbians in rural California.

Serious, reserved Emily and ebullient Salerno met in a lesbian bar in Berkeley. A perfect match, they’ve been partners for 15 years. Fifty-year-old Emily is a city planner in Chicago, the somewhat younger Salerno a jazz saxophonist. They, along with three female friends, bought a ranch in the hills of Northern California, each building separate houses (in Emily and Salerno’s case, a one-room cabin). Emily has just arrived for a vacation when she learns that Salerno, returning from a gig in Arizona, has died in a plane crash. Emily is devastated, and the novel details her grief. But her loss is transcended by the warm camaraderie of her Beulah Ranch friends. Her first thought is to sell her portion of the ranch (she gets help from her brother Michael, a real-estate lawyer in San Francisco), but her friends are aghast. They love her. She must stay. The reader knows before Emily does that she is here for keeps. The reader also knows before Emily that Eva, the young Latina forest ranger with “the rich caramel-colored skin and the hazel-almost golden-eyes,” will provide Emily with more than just friendship. As an antidote to the abundant sweetness of the group, and in lieu of a plot, Miner describes threats to their idyllic existence: a rash of fires set by an arsonist, obnoxious evangelicals pushing Creationism, loggers intent on clear-cutting. Miner also gets some mileage out of an Indian artifact Emily discovers on her land. In this righteous work, in which it’s cool to be ethnic but not a WASP (Emily resents that she’s half-WASP), she naturally donates it to the Pomo reservation.

Miner does much better with her evocation of place than with her characterizations, which are shallow.

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-8061-3814-9

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Univ. of Oklahoma

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2007

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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