A too-familiar 12-step two-step.


A debut novel about AA, romance and recovery, set in West Hollywood.

Delia is a recovering alcoholic with ten years of sobriety, a loving husband, a two-year-old daughter and a happy home life in Seattle. Then she gets the call she has been dreading for a decade. Timothy, her beloved gay friend from AA, is dying. When he was first diagnosed with HIV, Delia promised she would be by his side at the end. And so, with the loving encouragement of her “normie” (AA term for a non-addict) husband, Delia travels back to West Hollywood, the site of her childhood, her teenage appetite for booze, crack, ’ludes and other pharmaceuticals, and the flameout that landed her in rehab. It was there she met Timothy, and where the two supported each other until both were clean. Delia’s return to California triggers memories of her struggles to stay sober, her parents’ anger at all the trouble she caused and her unresolved feelings about the death of her sponsor, Joan, her first marriage and her attraction to James, the man who always tempted Delia to walk on the wild side. Told mostly in flashbacks, with the focus on Delia (though it is Timothy who is dying), this novel presents an ensemble cast of addict-stereotypes: Zodiac, the black crack-whore who keeps falling off the wagon; Joan, the older, spiritually certain sponsor who wears gauzy white clothes; Delia’s dad, the high-powered narcissist and functioning alcoholic; Delia’s mom, the classic enabler; Rafael, the dry drunk in shut-down mode; and Delia herself, who thrives in her sobriety and becomes a chemical-dependency counselor. Blackburn, also a chemical-dependency counselor, obviously knows her material: The AA meetings and late-night coffee and cigarette klatches ring so true that the tobacco smoke practically wafts off the page. But the story never moves beyond the emotional level of case histories. And it’s inevitable that good intentions will prevail.

A too-familiar 12-step two-step.

Pub Date: May 23, 2006

ISBN: 0-312-35158-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2006

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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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