An overflowing, hospitable story. Shakespeare it ain’t, but we didn’t expect it to be.

A TALE OUT OF LUCK

America’s most famous outlaw conjures up a Wild West fable about the Texas town he made up from scratch.

Musician Nelson partners up with novelist Blakely (Come Sundown, 2006, etc.) to craft this rootin’, tootin’ cowboy story, set in Luck, Texas. The town’s founding fathers are Captain Hank Tomlinson, former Texas Ranger and owner of the Broken Arrow Ranch, and Jack Brennan, the imposing, scar-faced owner of a competing firm. When Hank’s impetuous sons, Jay Blue and adoptee Skeeter Rodriguez, lose a prize Kentucky thoroughbred mare, they set off in hot pursuit of the horse, now running with a herd led by an unconquerable mustang known as the “Steel Dust Gray.” During their quest we meet the book’s most magnetic character, albino ex-slave Jubal Hayes, who communes with all manner of creatures. “I can even talk javalina, chachalaca, black bear and leopard cat. And I don’t speak no rattlesnake, but I do understand what they say,” he offers. Back in Luck, a storm is brewing over the murder of a cattle rustler named Wes James and the truth is winnowed out by Tomlinson and plucky saloon owner Flora Barlow. A resurrected outlaw from Tomlinson’s past brings the two ranches, a host of black hats and a Comanche war party into bloody conflict. How bad is it? “Well, we’re almost out of ammunition and we’ve got ninety-some-odd Comanches out there who want us all dead. Or worse,” Hank says.

An overflowing, hospitable story. Shakespeare it ain’t, but we didn’t expect it to be.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59995-732-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Center Street/Hachette

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2008

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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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