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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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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JURASSIC PARK

Genetically engineered dinosaurs run amok in Crichton's new, vastly entertaining science thriller. From the introduction alone—a classically Crichton-clear discussion of the implications of biotechnological research—it's evident that the Harvard M.D. has bounced back from the science-fantasy silliness of Sphere (1987) for another taut reworking of the Frankenstein theme, as in The Andromeda Strain and The Terminal Man. Here, Dr. Frankenstein is aging billionaire John Hammond, whose monster is a manmade ecosystem based on a Costa Rican island. Designed as the world's ultimate theme park, the ecosystem boasts climate and flora of the Jurassic Age and—most spectacularly—15 varieties of dinosaurs, created by elaborate genetic engineering that Crichton explains in fascinating detail, rich with dino-lore and complete with graphics. Into the park, for a safety check before its opening, comes the novel's band of characters—who, though well drawn, double as symbolic types in this unsubtle morality play. Among them are hero Alan Grant, noble paleontologist; Hammond, venal and obsessed; amoral dino-designer Henry Wu; Hammond's two innocent grandchildren; and mathematician Ian Malcolm, who in long diatribes serves as Crichton's mouthpiece to lament the folly of science. Upon arrival, the visitors tour the park; meanwhile, an industrial spy steals some dino embryos by shutting down the island's power—and its security grid, allowing the beasts to run loose. The bulk of the remaining narrative consists of dinos—ferocious T. Rex's, voracious velociraptors, venom-spitting dilophosaurs—stalking, ripping, and eating the cast in fast, furious, and suspenseful set-pieces as the ecosystem spins apart. And can Grant prevent the dinos from escaping to the mainland to create unchecked havoc? Though intrusive, the moralizing rarely slows this tornado-paced tale, a slick package of info-thrills that's Crichton's most clever since Congo (1980)—and easily the most exciting dinosaur novel ever written. A sure-fire best-seller.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 1990

ISBN: 0394588169

Page Count: 424

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1990

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