Occasionally drab due to its subject matter, but an insightful, impressively broad glimpse of a formidable mission.

We'll Live Tomorrow

From debut author Everett comes a novel about contemporary chaotic life in Afghanistan.

“Aid work was my life,” Hunter Ames says. The divorced, middle-aged, former Peace Corps volunteer tries to do his small part to help rebuild war-torn Afghanistan, working for USAID, an American enterprise engaged in various projects to help the people of Afghanistan (and elsewhere) while building a positive relationship with its people. It’s a job full of difficult personalities, corruption, and tremendous amounts of American money. “What Is Not Spent Cannot Be Billed,” Hunter’s boss stressed—“He referred to it as something so absolute and unquestioned that it might have been chiseled into stone tablets”—meaning in effect that large amounts of taxpayer dollars had to be spent regardless of the usefulness in doing so. Because insurgent attacks and irate Afghanis were always a possibility, the job was dangerous and frustrating. Amid this quagmire is green-eyed Karimullah, a young Afghani man who escaped a life of forced prostitution in “the hidden world of bacha bazi.” Karimullah works for Americans such as Hunter, though doing so puts Karimullah’s life in danger. How will these two ever survive a place as unstable and disjointed as Afghanistan? Everett offers an authentic look at the strange world of foreign aid work, with subject matter ranging from office politics to suicide bombers to the human need to be part of a group: “We’re tribal creatures,” says an acquaintance of Hunter’s. The story goes deeper, exploring the former lives of Hunter and Karimullah in places that have little to do with the United States government. For instance, thinking about his son, Hunter reflects: “What do we ever really know about our parents?” Details of bureaucratic life can prove dull, however, particularly with the attendant emails and meetings: “I had a meeting planned that afternoon with the contractor who would be filling an order for farm machinery,” Hunter says. Yet, on the whole, the narrative composes a realistic and touching image of the men and women involved in this complex relationship and the infinite trials of an operation as arcane and immense as rebuilding a nation.

Occasionally drab due to its subject matter, but an insightful, impressively broad glimpse of a formidable mission.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9962871-0-4

Page Count: -

Publisher: Galatea Press

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2015

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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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Laymon moves us dazzlingly (and sometimes bewilderingly) from 1964 to 1985 to 2013 and incorporates themes of prejudice,...

LONG DIVISION

A novel within a novel—hilarious, moving and occasionally dizzying.

Citoyen “City” Coldson is a 14-year-old wunderkind when it comes to crafting sentences. In fact, his only rival is his classmate LaVander Peeler. Although the two don’t get along, they’ve qualified to appear on the national finals of the contest "Can You Use That Word in a Sentence," and each is determined to win. Unfortunately, on the nationally televised show, City is given the word “niggardly” and, to say the least, does not provide a “correct, appropriate or dynamic usage” of the word as the rules require. LaVander similarly blows his chance with the word “chitterlings,” so both are humiliated, City the more so since his appearance is available to all on YouTube. This leads to a confrontation with his grandmother, alas for City, “the greatest whupper in the history of Mississippi whuppings.” Meanwhile, the principal at City’s school has given him a book entitled Long Division. When City begins to read this, he discovers that the main character is named City Coldson, and he’s in love with a Shalaya Crump...but this is in 1985, and the contest finals occurred in 2013. (Laymon is nothing if not contemporary.) A girl named Baize Shephard also appears in the novel City is reading, though in 2013, she has mysteriously disappeared a few weeks before City’s humiliation. Laymon cleverly interweaves his narrative threads and connects characters in surprising and seemingly impossible ways.

Laymon moves us dazzlingly (and sometimes bewilderingly) from 1964 to 1985 to 2013 and incorporates themes of prejudice, confusion and love rooted in an emphatically post-Katrina world.

Pub Date: June 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-932841-72-5

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Bolden/Agate

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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