CROSSING TO SAFETY

Stegner takes a long look back—at four decades of a foursome's life—in a novel that at moments is beguiling, though at others it labors for its theme. Larry Morgan and his wife Sally are young westerners who, one day in Depression-poor 1937, arrive in Madison, Wisconsin, where Larry is to take a one-year teaching post at the University of Wisconsin. Their lives are charmed and transformed when they become friends with Charity and Sid Lang, rich easterners whom the star-struck Morgans take to be the epitome of privilege, grace, and culture. A bosom friendship is formed between the two couples that is to last a lifetime, although that lifetime itself isn't to turn out as ideally as hoped. Success as a writer comes early to Larry Morgan, but his wife Sally is stricken by polio and made permanently a cripple. The elegant Sid Lang, meanwhile, is fired from his post at Madison, with the result that he and Charity (with children) are forced into retreat in the family's Kennedy-esque estate at Battell Pond, Vermont. There they wait out the years of WW II, and there it becomes increasingly clear (in the best sections of the book, which are rich, sure in tone, and reminiscent of, say, the reverberant delicacies of The Good Soldier) that the good Sid is in reality a weak and intellectually hapless man, and that wife Charity is in fact ruthlessly class-driven and relentlessly domineering. The novel ends in 1972, with a macabre reunion of the four friends in Vermont, as Charity orchestrates her own death (of cancer), compelling the others, in their varyingly crippled or exhausted states, to behave in the ways she sees as order-affirming and proper. Widely ambitious, the novel brings vividly to life certain quintessential moments and ideas—the idealistic moment between the Depression and WW II; the poetry-and-backpack rigor of the old New England intelligentsia. But Stegner clings to his theme of undying friendship beyond the point where his material keeps it alive, leading him to an often visibly artificial and conventionalized effort to push things along to their end. In all, less moving as a whole piece than highly remarkable for the fine penetration and achievement of some of its moments.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 1987

ISBN: 037575931X

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1987

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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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