A touching story, both tough and tender.

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BROKEN GLASS PARK

A lively debut novel with a cheerfully cynical narrator, first published in Germany in 2008, from Russian-born Bronsky.

The focus of the narrative is the consciousness of Sascha Naimann, a 17-year-old émigré from Russia to Germany. She’s skeptical, witty, loving, intimidating, vulnerable—and understandably furious that her stepfather, Vadim, murdered her mother a few months before the story opens. What enrages her most is that he’s in prison and thus out of reach of her fury, but she nevertheless plots revenge with feverish intensity. Sascha is now more or less in charge of her two younger siblings, the precocious Anton and the adorable Alissa. They all live in the Emerald, a disjunctively named public-housing project that is scarcely the jewel of Berlin. After a breathless and almost admiring article about Vadim appears in a local rag, Sascha shows up at the editorial office to set the record straight. There she meets Volker, an older man she quickly becomes enamored with and seeks out as a refuge from her wretched life in the projects. When Volker takes Sascha home, she gets more than she bargained for because she also meets Volker’s son Felix, a weak and chronically ill teenager who in turn becomes smitten with Sascha. They both quickly lose their virginity, and later that same night Sascha is accosted by Volker. Although “nothing happens,” he’s ashamed of his behavior and still courts Sascha’s friendship. At one point Peter the Great invites Sascha to “Broken Glass Park,” a wooded area known as a place where sketchy characters smoke dope and do other dark deeds, but it also becomes a metaphor for the unassailably bleak landscape inhabited by the narrator. Sascha becomes infuriated when she learns that Vadim has supposedly repented for his crime and then hanged himself in his jail cell, but she also finds that this act liberates her into the possibility of a more positive existence, one not based on a desire for bloody vengeance.

A touching story, both tough and tender.

Pub Date: April 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-933372-96-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2010

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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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