NOTES FROM THE COUNTRY CLUB

Wozencraft's stint as a narc inspired her raggedly vital Rush (1990)—and, like Rush's heroine, she wound up her cop-career by perjuring herself into a federal pen. Behind bars, withdrawing from Valium addiction, Wozencraft was sent to a women's psychiatric unit: the bleak setting for this second novel—more controlled than Rush but far less daring—about a woman awaiting trial for killing her abusive husband. Narrator Cynthia Mitchell, 39, is undergoing evaluation in the Fort Worth federal prison to see whether she's competent to stand trial for fatally stabbing her pilot husband Daniel. But we don't learn that for a while, as Cynthia concentrates first on describing her prison life: her job threading handles into mailbags; her sessions with a male prison psychiatrist; her exchanges with a crew of properly picturesque inmates—a wise Cuban, a tough Jew, a poetry-loving African-American, and a woman who dances with scarves. Slowly, amid dramas that include a suicide attempt and Cynthia's own nervous breakdown—leading to three weeks in isolation in ``the white room''—Cynthia's past seeps in: Child of an abusive dad and passive mom, she repeated her mother's mistake by marrying a white knight with tarnished armor. Daniel began smacking Cynthia soon after the marriage—abuse that escalated until she cut him as he slept: ``His skin needed the blade. I let him go. I survived.'' Cynthia survives again when, after she's found competent and is put on trial, she perjures herself by claiming that she killed Daniel as he choked her—a statement followed immediately by an expert witness's long explanation of why battered women stay with abusive men. The jury deliberates; justice triumphs. Cynthia and her plight ring true, but this is p.c. fiction- -polemic disguised as story—and, however compassionate and carefully drawn, about as subtle as Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 1993

ISBN: 0-395-62892-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1993

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

Did you like this book?

more