With wry humor and profound sensitivity, Walsh (Fractals, 2013) takes what is mundane and transforms it into something...

VERTIGO

Less a collection of linked short stories—though it is that, too—than a cinematic montage, a collection of photographs, or a series of sketches, Walsh's book would be dreamlike if it weren’t so deliciously sharp.

At an oyster restaurant looking over the French sea, a women contemplates the likelihood that her husband is currently having an affair. “Where my husband is, it is not lunchtime yet,” she says. “If my husband sleeps with the woman he will do so in the evening. As he has not yet done so, as he has not yet even begun to travel to the city where she lives, to which he is obliged to travel for work whether he sleeps with her or no, and as I am here in the oyster restaurant at lunchtime in another country, there is nothing I can do to prevent this.” This is Walsh at her best, towing the line between an equation and a poem. The rest of the stories are equally precise. “Vertigo” is a snapshot of the family's holiday among ruins (“predicated on spending as little as possible”). In “In the Children’s Ward,” the woman waits for news from a nurse with kissing kittens printed on her apron. For the woman—for women in general, perhaps—Walsh’s vision of domestic life requires an identity in constant flux. With the witty and unsettling “Young Mothers,” Walsh presents motherhood as a kind of regression: “Pregnant, we already wore dresses for massive 2 year olds.” In “Online,” the woman finds her husband’s digital affairs and tries on his lovers' personas. “What do you like for breakfast?” she asks him, not untheatrically—the difference between her and the lovers is that she already knows the answer. (“That is where the women online have the advantage,” she observes.)

With wry humor and profound sensitivity, Walsh (Fractals, 2013) takes what is mundane and transforms it into something otherworldly with sentences that can make your heart stop. A feat of language.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9897607-5-1

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Dorothy

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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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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