This proposed merger of literary fiction with chick lit contravenes the conventions of both genres.

THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE

Associate in a blue-chip Manhattan law firm copes with blowback from self-defeatism in Buxbaum’s much-hyped but disappointing debut.

Emily Haxby dumps her boyfriend Andrew on Labor Day. Why? Perhaps it’s her punishing schedule at Altman, Prior and Tisch, where the 29-year-old Yale Law grad has been assigned to defend corporate octopus Synergon in a carcinogen-dumping class-action lawsuit. Perhaps it’s because Andrew, a nice emergency-room doc, was trolling for her ring size and diamond preferences. Hoping to parse the enigma, she sees a shrink, Dr. Lerner, who doggedly plumbs Emily’s depths only to founder, like readers, in the shallows. When things threaten to get interesting—Emily is advised to consult A Civil Action for pointers on steamrolling pollution victims; a senior partner exceeds all bounds of decency on a business trip, making Denny Crane look subtle—Buxbaum opts for the easy resolution. Emily engineers the offending partner’s downfall, but quits her job anyway. After her beloved Grandpa Jack goes AWOL from his retirement home, he’s diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but consequences go mostly unexplored. So does the cordial but distant relationship with Dad that Emily has endured since her mother’s death when Emily was 14. When she finds Andrew newly attractive, he rebuffs all her conciliatory overtures with a harshness that belies his earlier, albeit sketchy, characterization. Grandpa Jack’s death reunites all the principals by teaching them—what else?—the importance of family.

This proposed merger of literary fiction with chick lit contravenes the conventions of both genres.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-385-34122-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2007

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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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