Amazingly, the effervescent comedy and troubling melodrama combine to create a satisfying beach read, escapist but not...

THE HYPNOTIST'S LOVE STORY

Australian Moriarty (What Alice Forgot, 2011, etc.) has managed to combine an infectiously lighthearted romance about a Sydney hypnotherapist with a potentially upsetting examination of a stalker’s interior life.

In the first scene, an unnamed narrator has come for treatment for mysterious leg pains at the home of the eponymous heroine, Buddhist-leaning but not stereotypically New-Agey Ellen, who uses her powers of hypnotic persuasion to solve other people’s problems. Unfortunately, Ellen has been less successful solving her own problems in maintaining relationships. Then she meets surveyor Patrick, a widower, and the rapport is immediate. The romance proceeds swimmingly. Ellen even hits it off with Patrick’s 8-year-old son, Jack. There is only one little hitch: Patrick is being stalked by his ex-girlfriend Saskia, who turns out to be the leg pain patient. Chapters take turns showing Ellen’s and Saskia’s perspectives as events unfold. Ellen, whose self-professed goal in life is self-awareness, tends to overanalyze, but she is also endearingly honest in rooting out her true feelings. Saskia’s way of showing up and knowing everything about Ellen's and Patrick’s lives creeps her out, but Ellen also finds herself wanting to understand Saskia, especially when Ellen acknowledges her own reaction to Patrick’s lingering feelings for his dead wife. She is even drawn toward a gray ethical area in deciding whether to use her powers of suggestion on Patrick. But Saskia is the novel’s unexpected heart. Moriarty makes it clear why Patrick, who is refreshingly imperfect as a secondhand Prince Charming, finds Saskia a threatening presence in his life. How far she might go is worrisome. But like Ellen, readers will be drawn to Saskia. She is a predator but also a deeply troubled woman. Moriarty makes sure that any woman who has ever compared herself to a lover’s ex or Googled an ex of her own will identify to some degree with Saskia’s struggle to overcome what she recognizes is an unhealthy obsession.

Amazingly, the effervescent comedy and troubling melodrama combine to create a satisfying beach read, escapist but not unintelligent.

Pub Date: June 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-15910-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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