Synopses & Reviews
A Kirkus Best Book of the Year
An Electric Literature Best Book of the Year
A searing novel about longing, intimacy and obsession from the award-winning author of Solace.
When they meet in Dublin in the late nineties, Catherine and James become close as two friends can be. She is a sheltered college student, he an adventurous, charismatic young artist. In a city brimming with possibilities, he spurs her to take life on with gusto. But as Catherine opens herself to new experiences, James's life becomes a prison; as changed as the new Ireland may be, it is still not a place in which he feels able to truly be himself. Catherine, grateful to James and worried for him, desperately wants to help — but as time moves on, and as life begins to take the friends in difference directions, she discovers that there is a perilously fine line between helping someone and hurting him further. When crisis hits, Catherine finds herself at the mercy of feelings she cannot control, leading her to jeopardize all she holds dear.
By turns exhilarating and devastating, Tender is a dazzling exploration of human relationships, of the lies we tell ourselves and the lies we are taught to tell. It is the story of first love and lost innocence, of discovery and betrayal. A tense high-wire act with keen psychological insights, this daring novel confirms Belinda McKeon as a major voice in contemporary fiction, joining the ranks of the masterful Edna O'Brien and Anne Enright.
"[McKeon] fills these early pages with cascading phrases that flex with the enthusiasm of young love.... McKeon brings this story to a close with such tenderness and honesty.... Anybody can feel the real life pulsing through this novel about misaligned affections."
Ron Charles, Washington Post
"Belinda McKeon's new novel takes the prize for having one of the most exquisite endings I've read in some time...Well before you reach the well-earned, absolutely perfect ending, McKeon lets you know unequivocally that this is a book about a rare connection...moving."
"You'll feel immersed in the textured, nuanced exploration of the fraught emotional territory of relationships and the stress that time puts on them-and just might be able to relate."
"McKeon...captures something essential about friendship, vulnerability, love, and longing. As it explores the push-pull of this achingly intimate, increasingly obsessive relationship-the way James and Catherine attract and repel each other as if they were two strong magnets turned this way and that-the story throbs with the tension between them.... McKeon regards the characters in her keenly wrought love story-for all their flaws and fragility-with insight, sensitivity, and a compassion that proves contagious."
Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Tender combines the urge to escape the ordinary of Brideshead Revisited with the tormented devotion of McEwan's Enduring Love. It is chilling, gorgeous, and profoundly insightful about the very human urge to wreck oneself on the shoals of a great ambition." Matthew Thomas, New York Times bestselling author of We Are Not Ourselves
About the Author
Belinda McKeon's debut novel, Solace, won the 2012 Faber Prize, was voted Irish Book of the Year, and was shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Her essays and journalism have been published in The Paris Review, the New York Times, the Guardian, and elsewhere. She has had plays produced in Dublin and New York, and is under commission to the Abbey Theatre. McKeon was a nominee for the inaugural Laureate for Irish Fiction post. She lives in Brooklyn and teaches at Rutgers University.