A vivid account of one remarkable family’s role in shaping modern America.

THE LEHMAN TRILOGY

A fictional history of the immigrant family that built a great American financial institution.

Source for the eponymous stage production, Massini’s imposing novel in verse tells the story of Lehman Brothers, the venerable investment banking firm whose unimaginable collapse in 2008 helped trigger the Great Recession. Beginning with the arrival from Bavaria, in the mid-19th century, of brothers Henry, Emanuel, and Mayer and the establishment of first a grocery store and then a cotton trading business in Montgomery, Alabama, Massini follows three generations of this German Jewish family as it sinks its roots in unfamiliar soil and then, through shrewdness, daring, and tireless work, forges a worldwide financial empire. Expansive and intimate, sober and playful, Massini’s novel focuses less on arcane financial maneuvers and more on the outsized personalities of the Lehman family members who drove the company’s success. Among the most memorable are Sigmund, son of Mayer, who steels himself for leadership by memorizing a list of 120 draconian rules for ruthless business dealing, and Emanuel’s grandson Robert “Bobbie” Lehman, art collector and owner of racehorses, who shepherded the bank through the Depression and into the modern era, sowing the seeds of both its continuing prosperity and its ruin. Massini departs from the Lehman financial saga for a portrait of Herbert Lehman, Sigmund’s brother, the liberal reformer who challenged some of the excesses of capitalism displayed in the family business while serving as both governor of New York and senator from that state. With the aid of a vibrant translation from the Italian, the novel takes on an epic quality as the Lehmans relentlessly expand the scope of their business, accumulating vast wealth and economic power, while devoting themselves with equal single-mindedness to the acquisition of social status, the latter effort symbolized in their drive to shoulder aside rivals and move to the front row of their New York City synagogue.

A vivid account of one remarkable family’s role in shaping modern America.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-294044-5

Page Count: 720

Publisher: HarperVia/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Gigantic, strange, exquisite, terrifying, and replete with mystery.

TO PARADISE

A triptych of stories set in 1893, 1993, and 2093 explore the fate of humanity, the essential power and sorrow of love, and the unique doom brought upon itself by the United States.

After the extraordinary reception of Yanagihara's Kirkus Prize–winning second novel, A Little Life (2015), her follow-up could not be more eagerly awaited. While it is nothing like either of her previous novels, it's also unlike anything else you've read (though Cloud Atlas, The House of Mirth, Martin and John, and Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy may all cross your mind at various points). More than 700 pages long, the book is composed of three sections, each a distinct narrative, each set in a counterfactual historical iteration of the place we call the United States. The narratives are connected by settings and themes: A house on Washington Square in Greenwich Village is central to each; Hawaii comes up often, most prominently in the second. The same names are used for (very different) characters in each story; almost all are gay and many are married. Even in the Edith Wharton–esque opening story, in which the scion of a wealthy family is caught between an arranged marriage and a reckless affair, both of his possible partners are men. Illness and disability are themes in each, most dramatically in the third, set in a brutally detailed post-pandemic totalitarian dystopia. Here is the single plot connection we could find: In the third part, a character remembers hearing a story with the plot of the first. She mourns the fact that she never did get to hear the end of it: "After all these years I found myself wondering what had happened....I knew it was foolish because they weren't even real people but I thought of them often. I wanted to know what had become of them." You will know just how she feels. But what does it mean that Yanagihara acknowledges this? That is just one of the conundrums sure to provoke years of discussion and theorizing. Another: Given the punch in the gut of utter despair one feels when all the most cherished elements of 19th- and 20th-century lives are unceremoniously swept off the stage when you turn the page to the 21st—why is the book not called To Hell?

Gigantic, strange, exquisite, terrifying, and replete with mystery.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-385-54793-2

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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