An overstuffed tale that can’t decide if it’s a mystery or a romance.

THE LAST ANNIVERSARY

Moriarty’s second novel follows the Doughty clan as they fight to protect family secrets.

The Doughtys became famous more than 70 years ago when Connie and Rose Doughty found a baby on their island home, Scribbly Gum. The baby’s parents, Alice and Jack Munro, vanished, leaving few clues to their whereabouts. The circumstances around the abandonment created a national media sensation. Dubbed “The Baby Munro Mystery,” the case captivated Australians and turned sleepy Scribbly Gum Island into a tourist destination. Connie and Rose jumped at this chance to make money. They offered tours and concessions based on the Munro’s disappearance. Their schemes created a financial windfall for the Doughty family. As the business grew, Connie and Rose managed to keep the younger generations of Doughtys on a tight leash by controlling the purse strings. After setting up this bleak bit of history, Moriarty focuses on the island’s current residents. The Doughty grandchildren and great-grandchildren seem to have prospered in their pristine surroundings, but in reality they are a tortured bunch. The family’s troubles surface when the matriarch, Connie, dies. Infighting breaks out among the relatives, and the careful fabric that bound the family together for years starts to unravel. The comparatively sane and notably saucy Sophie Honeywell is thrown into this den of nutcases—Sophie had only met the dowager a handful of times, when she was dating one of the Scribbly Gum natives, but apparently Sophie made such an impression that Connie bequeathed to her her home. Eager to toss aside Sydney’s stale singles scene for the opportunity to live rent-free on the picturesque island, Sophie joins the fray. Moriarty (Three Wishes, 2004) presents far too many characters (five generations are accounted for), and none of them are likable. The old ladies are cantankerous and the younger folk are addle-brained. Sub-plots involve postpartum depression, gay relationships, mid-life crises and weight-control issues.

An overstuffed tale that can’t decide if it’s a mystery or a romance.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-089068-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2006

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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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