This novel set in the small-town South dangles a lot of interesting possibilities but disappoints on half of these. Leland is returning home to Mississippi after more than 35 years living in big cities, and her gay, illegitimate son, Toby, is accompanying her. Most of the action takes place at a dinner party given by her close friend, Melanie, and Melanie's husband, Baker. Leland appears to be ill, but Melanie and Baker wear their pain openly; their teenage daughter slit her wrists in the bathtub, and they have never completely recovered. The other members of their high school gang are also in attendance, each with their own quirks: Overweight Sissy loves opera and expensive clothing; Jane Scott moved home eight years earlier from San Francisco and inexplicably finds herself still there, making jam and sleeping with other people's husbands, including ex-football star Dog, who also is coming to dinner with his wife, Totty. A closeted gay man named Carroll and Melanie and Baker's 12-year-old son Roy—an odd boy who wears a cape and carries his pet rat wrapped around his neck—will round out the group, along with a last-minute guest who comes to fix the sink and ends up with an invite. Each has a well- drawn personality with believable human tics, and Lowry (Crossed Over, 1992) does a capable job of delineating them. There are plenty of funny lines, like this one about Jane Scott: ``Sometimes she thought she lived her entire life to provide country songwriters with material.'' However, all of this southern eccentricity has a familiar feel to it, especially since the pay- off after the boozy reunion is less than shocking—despite Lowry's bald-faced attempts to titillate with references to masturbation and the like. A good read that provides diverting company but little closure.

Pub Date: April 14, 1994

ISBN: 0-679-42939-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1994

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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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