WAYFARERS

An affecting story of two souls separated by slavery and war.

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A gay historical novel tells of a love forged across class and racial lines.

Jerry Hawthorne and Daniel Cook are an unlikely pair of lovers. They are both men, and in 19th- century America, theirs is a dangerous union. They share intense memories of growing up together on the Hawthorne plantation, with Daniel a slave and Jerry the scion of the family that owned him. When they are still boys, Jerry’s father dies, throwing the future of the plantation in doubt. The slaves are afraid they will be sold, and Jerry worries he will be separated from his best friend. Jerry’s abolitionist Uncle George steps in to try to keep Daniel’s family intact, but Jerry’s mother sells the clan and the rest of the slaves without a second thought. Daniel is torn from his family after a slave auction in Memphis while Jerry runs away to try to get to New York and Uncle George. Each learns hard lessons as the years pass, with Daniel further exposed to the brutality of slavery while Jerry becomes a petty criminal in New York. But the advent of the Civil War will change the course of their lives. With emancipation, slaves are free to seek out their former families, and long-separated friends are able to discover the secret love they have for each other. Cook (Uncle Otto, 2007) writes in a conversational and breezy prose that adequately captures the energy of the time period, as when Daniel hears chatter about the coming war: “He…heard, mainly from slaves, about how bold some of the slaves had become and that some had just walked off from their plantations and nobody did anything about it.” The pacing of the book is reminiscent of a Victorian novel, with much attention paid to character development and the dynamics of the household. While some of the players feel a bit one-dimensional, the leads are compelling, and the investigation of interracial and homosexual relationships in the Civil War period should keep audiences invested in their struggles. The book is well-crafted and will likely please readers beyond those who are fans of gay fiction. 

An affecting story of two souls separated by slavery and war.

Pub Date: July 11, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4628-7256-5

Page Count: 262

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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