Set in New York, like its frivolous predecessor On Mermaid Avenue (1993), Kirshenbaum's second novel takes a semiserious look at adultery. ``I have broken seven of the Ten Commandments,'' the nameless heroine tells us, adding, ``Guilt does not prey on me. My sleep is that of the innocent.'' Guilt isn't the only thing her account lacks; the reader waits in vain for any sort of subtext to enrich the events being retold. The narrator for the most part simply relates how she balances her sex life and keeps a husband and two lovers simultaneously enraptured. The acts themselves are neither erotic nor graphic, alternating between leaky bed play and out-of- body float. Lover number one, called the Hit Man, is a handsome Sicilian-American professor of history who publishes books about Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, lives in Little Italy, cooks, and snaps his paramour into firecracker orgasms; although he knows she's married, he wants her to be all his. Number two, ``the love of my life,'' is a multimedia artist: nothing to look at, with Nazi numbers tattooed on his forearm, and a drag in bed—quite monochromatic. Left-handed, half-Jewish (she denies her paternal Methodist heritage) and apparently jobless by choice, the protagonist can't cook, sew, or clean house. What she can do is help her mainly offstage husband with the Sunday Times crossword puzzle and serve her lovers a creamy dish of vagina Alfredo. She's an expert as well on oral love and erections, and when the artist fails to rise, she tells him, `` `It's never happened with my other men friends.' I don't want him getting any ideas that I could have anything to do with this, that I am the emasculating queen, the wicked witch of Limpland waving my craggy wand over once rigid cocks, turning them to jelly.'' Juicy sexual history, but mysteriously un-nourishing.

Pub Date: April 18, 1994

ISBN: 0-88064-157-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: N/A

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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