An uneven fourth outing by Kowalski (The Adventures of Flash Jackson, 2003, etc.), with a unique and nicely textured...


An engaging if overwritten tale about a Manhattan couple changed by a house in the country.

On a Sunday drive, Coltrane and Francie Hart, a severely mismatched pair (she’s a medicated manic-depressive and lapsed poet; he’s a Type-A stock trader) stumble on their dream house. Francie sees it as a place to resume writing poetry; Colt as a weekend spot for entertaining colleagues. On moving day, Francie realizes she’s forgotten her medication and decides to try life without it. Implausibly, the only result is that her judgment is clearer—and she begins to see Colt for the unfeeling monster he is. When Francie discovers the diary of Marly Musgrove, the mid-19th-century woman of the house, she realizes there’s a cemetery in back filled with Musgrove bodies. The result: Colt insists they be removed, angering a next-door neighbor who’s a relative of the buried family. The neighbor kidnaps Colt and forces him to collect the displaced remains from a junkyard. Colt ends up in the hospital, where morphine-induced dreams about his own judgment day lead him to an extreme and unlikely turn. He helps his dying father get out of prison (after spending the last several years pretending he was dead); drops the charges against the neighbor; and apologizes to Francie. Colt is the novel’s weakest link, and, unfortunately, gets the most attention; by the time he turns over a new leaf, he’s already been portrayed as so emotionally detached that it’s difficult to believe (or care about) his new self. Throughout, the Musgroves’ tragedy-laden family history, including a well-paced revelation about a murder in the family, is skillfully woven into the story, and serves as an interesting backdrop to Francie and Colt’s domestic trials. But Kowalski’s eye for detail and character is so much stronger in the Musgrove passages that one wishes the Harts were nearly as believable and compelling.

An uneven fourth outing by Kowalski (The Adventures of Flash Jackson, 2003, etc.), with a unique and nicely textured historical subplot that’s outweighed by the plodding tone and somewhat convoluted main story.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-06-621137-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2004

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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 steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.


From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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