Canadian novelist and storywriter Gowdy (We So Seldom Look on Love, 1993, etc.) continues to indulge her passion for (and remarkable understanding of) those existing on society's fringe- -this time in a tale of a massively dysfunctional family with enough neuroses and secrets to keep an army of therapists employed. Joan makes quite an entrance into the Canary family by remarking, ``Oh, no, not again!'' at her birth. The astonished midwife promptly drops her on her head, and as Joan develops into a ghostly, speechless child who lives in her closet, yet who can mimic even the slightest noise, it's this accident at birth that gets the blame. She may not resemble anyone in the family physically, but with her odd habits she's right at home. Grandmother Doris claims her as a daughter, since Joan's real mother Sonja is only 15; Doris is also just discovering, ecstatically, that she's gay. Grandfather Gordon, himself a closet homosexual and no stranger to affairs, had one with the handyman in his office building, a hunk who left him and is later discovered to have had a go with Sonja—and in fact is Joan's father. Then there's Marcy, the older daughter of Doris and Gordon, who believes she's telepathically linked to Joan and thus speaks in the plural whenever either of them is the subject of conversation, but who also grows up to be determinedly promiscuous. Meanwhile, Joan herself, at first contact with a piano, proves to be a musical genius; she's ideally suited to become the family confessor as well, until, after years in the role, she finds a unique way to bring everyone's secrets into the open, all but sacrificing herself to make her family whole. Absurd hilarity is mixed well here with a persistent, gentle probing of family dynamics, and crisply defined situations contribute a bell-like clarity to this affecting and unusual domestic saga as it unfolds.

Pub Date: April 1, 1997

ISBN: 1-883642-33-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Steerforth

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1997

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?