GETTING OVER TOM

This collection introduces to fiction a 50ish newcomer who's previously written four children's books and worked as a literary agent. The experience shows. Divided into three neat sections, these stories place Thomas in the coterie of popular female authors that includes Alice Adams, Mary Gordon, Alice Hoffman, and Bobbie Ann Mason. Part One concerns children from charmingly dysfunctional families. The settings and values of the 1950s are captured to perfection, as when the shamed, divorced, or never-married mothers whose teenage children apply too much makeup are juxtaposed with neighbors who have turned their basements into rec rooms in ``1957.'' The four stories in the second section depict women's boredom during roughly the same time period. All revolve around Virginia, thrown out of college the moment she became pregnant, attempting to adjust to her husband and his friends. In these low-key pieces we meet characters already defeated. As the experienced ex- girlfriend puts it: ``The thing about being married is you spend all day waiting for your husband to come home and when he does, it's no big deal.'' But these losers at times show endearingly zany sides—Buddy, for example, draws with magic marker on Virginia's huge stomach. If the middle decades of this century were repressed, all hell breaks loose in the 1980s (Part Three). Enter Louise, a sex-crazed woman approaching menopause, mother of four, twice divorced, who sets her sights continually on the wrong men: a dentist who wishes only to cap her teeth, a 20-year- old construction worker, a former lover, a drug dealer/street musician she barely knows. The only disappointing piece is the final, title story. Here Louise loses her human traits and becomes a gimmicky muse stand-in, telling the writer what to say, or interrupting to explain how it really happened. Despite the disconcerting finish, a powerful collection.

Pub Date: May 1, 1994

ISBN: 1-56512-024-8

Page Count: 204

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1994

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

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.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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