In all her best work, Roiphe (The Pursuit of Happiness, 1991, etc.) has mined the depth of human love and exposed its secret lode of sorrow. Here, she does it again in a gently funny, ultimately serious, heartfelt story about the risks of middle-age love. Leah Rose meets Ollie Marcus when she plunges into the surf on a fall afternoon to help him rescue his retarded adult sister, Sally—a portentous action, as it turns out. Leah, in her early 40s, is a biologist on sabbatical from her lab, living in the beach house she inherited from her parents. Ollie, about the same age, is a high-school English teacher who lives in the house where he grew up and takes care of his sister. Sally is saved that fall day—and some small spark is ignited between Leah and Ollie. It smolders quietly for a while—these two have been alone for a long time and they're used to it. So when things finally do flame, they're frightened. Life is so bright, it makes them wary. Ollie backs off. Leah voices her concerns, by telephone, to her best friend, Myrna. And even though Myrna seems tiresome and monomaniacal in the exchanges we hear—we learn more than we ever wanted to know about how her bathroom smells—she does come up with some pointed advice: ``Be careful,'' she cautions Leah. ``There's a reason he's still available.'' There is. But, of course, there are reasons Leah is still available too. What they both have to figure out is where fear ends and trust begins. Finding that spot takes far more courage than jumping into the icy sea on a fall day—and, ultimately, it's worth every shiver. A coming-of-age in middle-age. Roiphe shows us a new facet of first love here—slightly worn, but its shine is deep.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 1993

ISBN: 0-316-75430-7

Page Count: 218

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1993

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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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