A lively narrative with a poignant core and quirky, lonely characters.

THE REVISED FUNDAMENTALS OF CAREGIVING

Evison manages to find considerable humor in this plaintive story of care giving and receiving.

Narrator Ben Benjamin is greatly in need of caregiving himself, so he doesn’t have much left for Trev, his adolescent charge, who has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and is confined to a wheelchair. Ben has learned everything about his job from The Fundamentals of Caregiving, a book generous in providing acronyms meant to be helpful (for example, ALOHA: Ask Listen Observe Help Ask again) but scanty in providing practical advice. He takes the job of caring for Trev because—well, frankly because he’s broke, he’s responsible for a family tragedy, and his wife has left him, so the minimum wage job has a desperate appeal. Ben finds that providing care for Trev helps give his life some purpose. Trev’s father, Bob, had deserted his family years before, shortly after the diagnosis of MD was made, but he’s now making some attempts to get back in touch with his son, though Trev resolutely rebuffs him. Then Elsa, Trev’s mother, finds out that Bob has been in a car accident in Salt Lake City, and against her wishes, Ben decides to take Trev on a road trip to see him, a trip that becomes more an end in itself than a means to see how Bob is doing. Along the way from Oregon to Utah they pass through towns, pick up Dot, a punky but goodhearted girl, befriend Elton and his acutely pregnant girlfriend, Peaches, and are followed by a mysterious man in a Skylark. Ben expects the mystery man to be a private detective his estranged wife has set on him, but he turns out to be someone quite different.

A lively narrative with a poignant core and quirky, lonely characters.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-6162-0039-8

Page Count: -

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 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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Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters...

TRUE COLORS

Female rivalry is again the main preoccupation of Hannah’s latest Pacific Northwest sob saga (Firefly Lane, 2008, etc.).

At Water’s Edge, the family seat overlooking Hood Canal, Vivi Ann, youngest and prettiest of the Grey sisters and a champion horsewoman, has persuaded embittered patriarch Henry to turn the tumbledown ranch into a Western-style equestrian arena. Eldest sister Winona, a respected lawyer in the nearby village of Oyster Shores, hires taciturn ranch hand Dallas Raintree, a half-Native American. Middle sister Aurora, stay-at-home mother of twins, languishes in a dull marriage. Winona, overweight since adolescence, envies Vivi, whose looks get her everything she wants, especially men. Indeed, Winona’s childhood crush Luke recently proposed to Vivi. Despite Aurora’s urging (her principal role is as sisterly referee), Winona won’t tell Vivi she loves Luke. Yearning for Dallas, Vivi stands up Luke to fall into bed with the enigmatic, tattooed cowboy. Winona snitches to Luke: engagement off. Vivi marries Dallas over Henry’s objections. The love-match triumphs, and Dallas, though scarred by child abuse, is an exemplary father to son Noah. One Christmas Eve, the town floozy is raped and murdered. An eyewitness and forensic evidence incriminate Dallas. Winona refuses to represent him, consigning him to the inept services of a public defender. After a guilty verdict, he’s sentenced to life without parole. A decade later, Winona has reached an uneasy truce with Vivi, who’s still pining for Dallas. Noah is a sullen teen, Aurora a brittle but resigned divorcée. Noah learns about the Seattle Innocence Project. Could modern DNA testing methods exonerate Dallas? Will Aunt Winona redeem herself by reopening the case? The outcome, while predictable, is achieved with more suspense and less sentimental histrionics than usual for Hannah.

Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters and understanding of family dynamics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-36410-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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