Erudite. Imaginative. A work to be read slowly and savored.



Thier (The Ghost Apple, 2014) sends Daniel Defoe, a 560-year-old Spaniard, wandering across centuries as the world wages wars, civilizations are raped, and human societies are swamped by global warming.

A simple fellow who tells folks that the secret to eternal life is not dying, Defoe lives as a mirror rather than a narrative-driving hero. All he desires in his millennial-long quest is to find his true love, Anna Gloria, again. In 1560, Defoe joins explorers guided by a Pirahao aboriginal girl, trapped as a colonial mayor’s mistress, into Amazon-like wilds in search of treasure. In 1750, he becomes Dr. Dan on Little Salt, a Caribbean island, where John Green, a mulatto intent on passing as white, lurks on a failed sugar plantation. In 2016, two young filmmakers, propelled by drugs and irony, set out to make a documentary about the ancient mariner. In 2200, Defoe becomes a guide to buried treasure, a roguish tale narrated in rambling Faulkner-ian exposition by a young fellow called Jam. In 2500, where once stood St. Louis, now land "hot enough to fry an ape," Defoe encounters Jasmine St. Roulette, daughter of the hereditary king and president of the Democratic Federation of Mississippi States. The tales explore the ugliness of slavery, the genocide of aboriginal peoples, and the ubiquity of greed. Throughout, Thier riffs on multiple themes: the evolution of history from fact to legend—"imagination and memory were all confounded one with the other"; how language constructs reality; and how, as the protagonists in our own stories, we "struggle with the meaning of story." With symbolism and analogy, surrealism and fantasy, Thier deftly reflects on and explores the human condition through "the lavender light and sweet scented dust of history."

Erudite. Imaginative. A work to be read slowly and savored.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63286-093-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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