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Booklist Reviews 2015 February #2
This long, claustrophobically written novel by the author of The People in the Trees (2013) follows the lives of four college men (and their many friends, nearly all male) from their early postgraduation days in New York through much of their accomplished adult lives, and backward to their childhoods. It opens with them helping Willem and the fragile Jude St. Francis move into an apartment on Lispenard Street and then delineates the course of their lives. They include Malcolm, a light-skinned African American architect from a wealthy background; JB, an occasional drug-using artist of Haitian ancestry (the author does a great job of describing his art—no easy task); Willem, the handsome actor who, as we first meet him, is, of course, waiting tables downtown; and, at center stage, Jude. Although Jude is a successful litigator, his full background is murky, though what we do learn about it is horrific. Jude is frail, vulnerable, private, and given to cutting himself. In his neediness, he is the focus of the others' existence. This profoundly disturbing book is about pain and compulsion, secrets and betrayals, sexuality and loss—but, finally, about friendship. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2015 January #1
Yanagihara follows her debut novel, The People in the Trees, with a deceptively simple tale of four male friends, Jude, Willem, Malcolm, and JB, who meet during their college years at Ivy League institutions. The men choose to continue their journeys into adulthood together by relocating jointly to New York. As they sustain their friendships into their fifties, the author delivers tales of their loyalty, love, and support for one another. However, lying beneath the surface is an emotionally disturbing story line about Jude, a highly successful lawyer and the brightest of the four men. The horrors of Jude's victimization during his youth by the brothers of a monastery and his eventual abduction by Brother Luke, a pedophile and pimp, force him to struggle relentlessly with inner demons and a deep-seated distrust of others, with his pain manifested in constant acts of cutting. VERDICT As in her previous novel, Yanagihara fearlessly broaches difficult topics while simultaneously creating an environment that her audience will find caring and sensitive. Not all readers will embrace this work, given its intense subject. However, for those strong of stomach or bold enough to follow the characters' road of friendship, this heartbreaking story certainly won't be easily forgotten.—Shirley Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA[Page 97]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
PW Reviews 2014 November #3
Yanagihara follows her 2013 debut novel, The People in the Trees, with an epic American tragedy. The story begins with four college friends moving to New York City to begin their careers: architect Malcolm, artist JB, actor Willem, and lawyer Jude. Early on, their concerns are money and job related as they try to find footholds in their respective fields. Over the course of the book, which spans three decades, we witness their highs and lows as they face addiction, deception, and abuse, and their relationships falter and strengthen. The focus narrows as the story unspools—and really, this is Jude's story. Unlike his friends, who have largely ordinary lives, Jude has a horrific trauma in his past, and his inner demons are central to the story. Throughout the years, Jude struggles to keep his terrible childhood secret and to trust those who love him. He cuts himself and contemplates suicide, even as his career flourishes and his friends support him. This is a novel that values the everyday over the extraordinary, the push and pull of human relationships—and the book's effect is cumulative. There is real pleasure in following characters over such a long period, as they react to setbacks and successes, and, in some cases, change. By the time the characters reach their 50s and the story arrives at its moving conclusion, readers will be attached and find them very hard to forget. (Mar.)[Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC