Told from several points of view, Blue Dog’s tale doesn’t always hang together, and, ultimately, there’s not much to it. But...


A thin, sometimes disjointed if gracefully written novella set in the remotest backcountry the Southwest has to offer.

Blue Dog—a pound mutt with one blue and one brown eye and a habit of pilfering cooked food and massacring animals still afoot—has gone missing. Either that or, mutters desert/river rat Paul Nozik, “I spaced the dog.” Nozik knows the dangerous ways of the Green River, Brower (The Late Great Creature, 1971, etc.) lets it be known, and he has reason to worry about Blue Dog, who’s “gimpy” from having been shot “in the left hinder, for stealing chickens.” But Blue Dog, bless her heart, is resourceful: having fallen overboard, she makes it to shore, then stages a fruitful raid on another raft expedition’s camp. Blue Dog is lucky, too: where those who float the Green sometimes talk of seeing prehistoric Anasazi Indian ghosts, Blue Dog actually falls into the company of a mysterious Ancient One who bears more than a passing resemblance to Kokopelli, the humpbacked flautist of legend. The nameless Indian, “naked down to his think bones, with an old, leathery skin like sun-stiffened hide stretched over them,” is happy enough to share his store of jerky, which, Blue Dog soon learns, has ominous origins. Chased by storms and river-runners, old man and dog traverse wild country that gets wilder in the telling; Blue Dogs even acquires a few supercanine abilities, saving drowning rafters and scaling tall cliffs effortlessly. In the end, order is restored to the worlds of human and dog alike—even if Blue Dog now does what no human can do: namely, serve two masters.

Told from several points of view, Blue Dog’s tale doesn’t always hang together, and, ultimately, there’s not much to it. But Brower—who, it appears, hasn’t been heard from much in 30 years—writes with exuberance and assurance, and readers who know the canyon country (and chicken-thieving dogs, for that matter) ought to enjoy this strange story.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2005

ISBN: 1-56792-280-5

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Godine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2004

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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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