CLIMBING THE COLISEUM

A disenchanted, depressed psychologist finds himself caring for a rebellious teenage girl and helping police investigate a racist group in Percy’s debut thriller.
Psychologist Ed Northrup is “burned out” and unhappy in Monastery Valley, Montana, and still feels guilt over a young patient’s death from 27 years ago. His adulterous ex-wife, Mara, wants Ed’s professional opinion on her 14-year-old daughter, Grace, who’s twice attempted suicide. When Ed repeatedly declines over the phone, Mara defiantly shows up in person with her daughter in tow. Soon, Ed is dealing directly with Grace, an opinionated, stubborn teen who’s terrified of abandonment. At the same time, he works with cops on a case that indirectly involves another of his patients, Maggie; her husband, Vic, who’s suspected of abusing her, may be linked to a hate group that’s posting flyers opposing an African-American gubernatorial candidate. Percy highlights the story’s thriller components, such as the unsettling nature of the hate group, the Church of Jesus Christ of the American Promise, which offers its potential members assistance with tax problems before ultimately preaching racist sentiments. But the true focus, and the stronger subplot, is the tremulous relationship between Ed and Grace. It’s tough to sympathize with the foul-mouthed Grace, despite her predicament; she’s rude to nearly everyone, including a waitress who tells her she can’t order a burger before the lunch service begins. But whether readers find Grace an object of pity or annoyance, she’ll definitely ignite an emotional response. (The plotline involving Vic and the church is resolved well before the end, and the book closes, quite appropriately, with Ed and Grace.) Percy superbly relates much of the story with visuals: the recurrent image of Grace with her hood up and face in her phone; a belligerent church assistant’s Stetson, which inspires a nickname; and Ed imagining his depression as a snarling black dog. The sole female deputy, Andi Pelton, is a laudable character as she adjusts to her new job, but it’s somewhat predictable that she’s Ed’s romantic interest.

A light, breezy thriller, but its tale of a troubled man acting as a father to an equally troubled girl has exceptional dramatic impact.

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1499009606

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2014

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

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.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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