Despite the misfires: a satisfying, subtly illuminating assortment.



A baker’s dozen (eleven published previously) from the prolific National Book Award–winning Lopez (Arctic Dreams, 1986, etc.), who, here, uses magical flourishes and an intimacy with nature to give many of these tales an unexpected warmth and depth.

Beginning with the first story, “Remembering Orchards,” in which a man in Oregon is brought to remember the stepfather he never had time for in his youth, but whose special talent as a tender of orchards is now abundantly clear, the themes of handwork and being close to the earth are laid bare. “Thomas Loudermilk’s Generosity” echoes and complicates this message, as a much-sought-after, fiercely independent gardener learns just how much respect people have for his gifts when he marries a much younger woman he had hired in her teens and helped put through college. A particular affinity for the Northern Plains works itself out in several pieces, among them “In the Great Bend of the Souris River,” in which a carpenter’s intense search of the North Dakota prairie where he grew up magically reveals a pair of Indians on horseback, who accompany him only long enough for him to regain his bearings. In “The Mappist,” a geographer searches throughout his life for work by a mysterious author whose travel books he revered, then stumbles across maps that lead him to man and his magnum opus, not far from Fargo. Not all stories here have such a shimmering, mystical quality (particularly not the title one), but in a tale like “The Construction of the Rachel,” plot and vision seem nicely in sync: a lawyer loses interest in his former life when his marriage breaks up, then latches on to something sustaining when he constructs a large model of a tall ship from material found along a California beach.

Despite the misfires: a satisfying, subtly illuminating assortment.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2000

ISBN: 0-679-43455-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000

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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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