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Leaving Tomorrow

David Bergen. HarperCollins Canada, $27.99 (273p) ISBN 978-1-44341-138-7

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Bergen, whose novel The Time in Between won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2005, returns with a character study of a young aspiring writer. Arthur Wohlgemuht believes he is destined for greatness but feels he can never achieve it in small-town Tomorrow, Alberta. From recounting his birth in 1955 as though he remembers the event to collecting people and experiences that elevate his status, Arthur intriguingly tells his story while simultaneously annoying with self-aggrandizements. The book spans the years from Arthur's birth until his early 20s. His focus on class and finding his place in the world dominates the narrative. Stylistic excellences such as the sentence structure moving from long free flowing trains of thought when Arthur recounts his childhood to more concise sentences as he ages are evident throughout, but the narrative has a pointed lack of description and sense of place. Bergen succeeds in his consistent representation of Arthur, but Arthur's narrow and one-toned perspective of the world through complex experiences such as being directly impacted by the Vietnam War and moving from a small town to raucous Paris prevents the reader from connecting to the character and his exploration of self. Agent: Jackie Kaiser, Westwood Creative Artists. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 11/14/2014 | Details & Permalink

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A Little Life

Hanya Yanagihara. Doubleday, $30 (736p) ISBN 978-0-385-53925-8

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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.)

Reviewed on 11/14/2014 | Details & Permalink

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