Beach readers may find sand gnats more entertaining.

GROUNDSWELL

Lee, the much younger ex-wife of Billy Joel, debuts with a novel whose self-important heroine is a famous actor’s much younger wife who leaves him (with prenup) when he cheats on her only to find true love weeks later with her surf instructor.

Screenwriter Emma is at a Metropolitan Museum of Art gala when she catches “blockbuster movie star” husband Garrett kissing her old friend Lily. Flash back seven years to the beginning of the romance between Emma and Garrett. While Lily, then her college roommate, is rich and spoiled, Emma is a scholarship student from Kentucky who also manages to be a killer dresser. She dreams of becoming a screenwriter (her telling all-time favorites: Dirty Dancing, When Harry Met Sally and Breakfast at Tiffany’s). Working on a movie set, Lily quickly catches Garrett’s eye. Despite his reputation as a womanizer, he falls hard for Emma. Soon they are dining at fine restaurants (names provided) and hanging out in his suite at the Carlyle. She cuts short her family Christmas to vacation on his yacht near St. Bart’s and buy $12,000 of clothing on his credit card. At the wedding that soon follows, Emma slights Lily, sharing the ceremony’s big secret only with her childhood friend Grace. Grace becomes Emma’s personal assistant and finds an adorable West Village apartment. Garrett moves Emma into a fab Soho loft and finances her screenplay debut, the story of their romance—a huge hit. Emma’s struggling to conceive a second script when her marriage collapses. She kicks Garrett out and decamps, at Grace’s suggestion, to Mexico to recuperate. There she discovers the spiritual power of surfing, especially after she and her hunky surf instructor have “sex for hours.” Could a whole new life be on the horizon?

Beach readers may find sand gnats more entertaining.

Pub Date: June 21, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4391-8359-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2011

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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