ECHO MOUNTAIN

A soused black sheep goes home to repair frayed family ties in Arrants’ debut novel.

James Nichelson, second son of a publishing dynasty, is a budding writer who finds his soul mate in fetching young painter Bren; feeling that their creative potential can never thrive in moneyed Hilton Head, S.C., they plan to decamp for New York. Alas, Bren gets a professorship at a local university, which precipitates a colossal rift that is briefly and unwisely bridged during a tryst on the eve of Bren’s wedding to James’ bossy older brother, Jonathan. James spends the next few years in Manhattan squalor, working in the Dantean circle of a bar called the Free-fall Club and nursing an epic snit against Bren, Jonathan and the world, unappeased by the no-strings-attached sexual ministrations of a gorgeous, possibly transsexual barmaid named Crystal. He vents his spleen in an unpublished novel and in endless barroom tirades that develop a local following, with Crystal keeping count of his favorite obscenity—rhymes with yuck—on a gong. (Unfortunately, this gong eggs on his rants rather than ushering him off the stage.) Called back by his parents’ deaths, James ensconces himself at the family retreat at Echo Mountain, a bucolic setting tailor-made for nonstop drinking, writer’s block and boozy recriminations. Can further tragedy reunite him with Bren, Jonathan, a cute little girl of questionable parentage and his muse? In telling this swollen saga, Arrants proves himself a talented but fantastically undisciplined and self-indulgent writer. His padded-out prose lurches between cynicism, sentimentality and cloying sex banter, all belabored at unseemly length and volume and badly decorated with song lyrics. James’ loud, profane, sarcastic soliloquies, omnipresent because he is protagonist and narrator, can be vigorous and beguiling in their cocky Southernism, but they are so longwinded that they suck the air out of the novel. A colorful but bloated and exhausting tale of a man swimming through alcohol toward maturity.

 

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2011

ISBN: 978-1461024729

Page Count: 712

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2012

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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