A luminous debut novel set in turn-of-the-century Galveston, Texas, the first fiction from this small literary press. Taylor, author of a collection of essays (Into the Open: Studies in Genius and Modernity, not reviewed), writes in a richly poetic language steeped in time and place, a powerful style that well supports the tale of the Mehmel family, ``a people for whom life had become too hard.'' The Mehmels, like many other Eastern European Jewish families, immigrated to the port city of Galveston at the end of the 19th century. Having established a successful European-style brewery there, the elder Mehmel believes his family to be firmly rooted in the adopted country. But then his eldest son is swept away in a flood, his other son, a fey aesthete, seems interested only in bird-watching, and the legacy is left to teenage Felix, the son of the drowned heir. Felix, too, however, is a dreamer of uncertain sexual orientation, forever studying Latin texts with a middle-aged intellectual woman who openly lives with another woman. While trying to keep their foothold in the new land, the Mehmels are also struggling with their old faith. The local rabbi, another Eastern European ÇmigrÇ, pleads with the Mehmel widow to keep the old ways while he himself wrestles with religious doubts that have plagued him since he was a rabbinical student. These doubts were sown by a nomadic stranger who gave him questioning texts, and this same Elijah-like figure may or may not be the drifter who appears in Galveston at a time when all faith lapses. Taylor's magical, expressive language pulls the dense themes rapidly along, and even though he does sometimes poeticize to the point of confusing the action, his writing in general is engaging enough to make for tolerance in the reader. A beautifully rendered, moving, original debut. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1995

ISBN: 1-885983-04-2

Page Count: 284

Publisher: Turtle Point

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1995

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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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