Possibly a roman á clef, but the clef probably fits any number of doors. Entertaining if a little long-winded.


Fresh young associates and cynical old partners do battle with shifty prosecuting attorneys, soulless corporations, treacherous families and each other, in an issue-packed first novel from a young, famously monikered Penn law professor.

Skillfully pitching to the latest generation of young lawyers now facing the shock of the law in practice v. the law in school and wondering whether the career will be worth the huge student loan, Roosevelt sets a brood of Ivy-educated fledglings in a richly feathered nest on K Street. Earnest, sleep-deprived Mark Clayton, equally earnest distance-running Katja Phillips, terminally shallow Ryan Grady and former Supreme clerk Walker Eliot have begun their careers at D.C. power firm Morgan Siler, pulling down six-figure salaries but, with the exception of superstar Walker, nearly collapsing under odious and endless assignments. The firm is girding for battle in the defense of a careless Texas chemical firm against a class action suit featuring a shocking number of dead low-wage workers, and the young associates must learn the ins and outs of the corporate shell game crafted by Morgan Siler to insulate the chemical company from just such pesky problems. Glamour boy Walker, meanwhile, has saddled poor Mark with the pro bono defense of a soon-to-be-executed Virginian whose family seems a little too easily resigned to the man’s fate. Alternating trips to the Texas Chernobyl, where the locals despise the Washingtonians and the only motel is a dump, with drives to Norfolk, where the executioner’s clock is ticking but the hotel is luxe, Mark begins to piece together the alleged murderer’s defense. Meantime, Katja works her way through boxes of documents until she accidentally stumbles on unpleasant truths about the toxic fire, unaware that she is becoming ever dearer to the heart of a clever but lonely and much older litigator. And at the top of the heap, the stuffed-shirt son of the firm’s founder ponders the idea of a trophy wife.

Possibly a roman á clef, but the clef probably fits any number of doors. Entertaining if a little long-winded.

Pub Date: June 15, 2005

ISBN: 0-374-26187-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


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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