NEED

A surfeit of detail and a slow-moving plot hobble this second novel by the author of Family Values (1993). The premise is plausible and provocative: Tightly wound psychiatrist Pam Thompson discovers that her husband is having an affair with one of her clients, the suicidal Joan Dwyer, and sets out on a high-stakes quest to preserve both Dwyer and her marriage. But the need to control her emotions as well as her patient causes Thompson to mismanage the therapy, driving Dwyer ever closer to killing herself. There's plenty of room for intrigue as Pam and husband Dennis Perry alternately try to wound each other and to resurrect their relationship, while the guileless Dwyer serves as their field of battle. But David's over-rationalized schema leaves little room for the sort of surprises that would make it all fun. In all-too-appropriate keeping with the endlessly speculative nature of Thompson's psychiatric practice, much of the action is anticipated before it takes place. Rather than offering readers opportunities to make judgments or connections, David allows them only to work through a welter of agonized reflection and rationalization by all three characters. The author is conversant enough with the therapeutic process, but his workmanlike prose lacks urgency or insight, and what sex there is adds little heat to the proceedings. Excessive amounts of minutia about the characters' lives—TV shows, brand names, gourmet food—seem to be intended as cultural criticism, but such descriptions muffle the narrative's interesting turns (of which there are several). Much of the best action comes too late, after the reader's patience has worn thin. Some sharp-eyed producer will purchase movie rights to Need, hone it to essentials, inject a good deal more eroticism, and create a fine thriller; the book itself offers too few fireworks. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 1994

ISBN: 0-679-43433-X

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1994

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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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