In Timm's hands (Headhunter, 1993, etc.), how curried sausage became a popular street food makes for a perfectly charming novel that looks back at the end of WW II. It's a tall—and a humble—tale, involving love, war, resourcefulness, trickery, and an accident on the stairs, all made believable by the skillful Timm and his unnamed narrator, who makes his way to a retirement home to call on one Lena BrÅcker, whom he fondly remembers from his Hamburg childhood as having operated a food-stand selling curried sausages. Was this same Lena BrÅcker really the first inventer of the dish? Over seven days and seven visits from our narrator, the now-aged Mrs. BrÅcker (like Homer, she's become a blind creator, even knitting a sweater as she spins her yarn) tells her wonderful story, not the least of it having to do with her 27-day romance (starting April 29th, 1945) with a 24- year-old naval NCO named Bremer, whom she meets at the movies one rainy evening. After spending the night together in her apartment (her husband is a two-timer and cad, and, besides, he's gone), Mrs. BrÅcker (she's 40) suggests, putting it very simply, that the young man—well, could stay for a while. Desperate for manpower at war's end, the Germans have transferred Bremer to anti-tank duty and certain death, both of which he avoids by staying with the warm, generous, resourceful Mrs. BrÅcker. And as for the rest? Suffice it to say that, among other things, Mrs. BrÅcker is a good cook (a canteen manager, she's wizardly at rounding up scarce food); that her lust for life and unerring sense of right and wrong put her somewhere between the Wife of Bath and Anna Magnani; and that things work out as they sometimes do—in ways, this time, that you might feel like weeping for. A small, perfect feast: full of life, heart, spirit, and laughter, all seasoned delicately with sorrow and hope.

Pub Date: May 29, 1995

ISBN: 0-8112-1297-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1995

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

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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.


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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