A quick read with likable characters and an affecting ending.




Zani (Piper, Once & Again, 2016) returns with an intricately crafted novel about starting over after suffering life-changing loss.

The narrative opens with an intriguing dialogue, occurring in 1991, between an unnamed plastic surgeon seeking legal advice, and a lawyer, identified only as “Cranston,” who refuses to take the doctor’s case because “We only take cases we can win.” Fast-forward to 2019, and Dr. Eli Cranston is in his barn feeding Ink and Smudge, two rescue ponies that he recently adopted. Is this the same Cranston? Indeed, it is. In 1991, Eli was a successful defense attorney working for his father’s law firm, one of the largest in California. He was married to a woman named Antigone and had a newborn daughter, Grace. Since then, readers learn, he’s become a doctor of psychotherapy specializing in “FLP” (“Future Life Progression,” a form of hypnotic therapy), and has moved to a small town in Maine. The principal people in Eli’s new life are Clem, a crusty but charming jack-of-all-trades who speaks with a heavy Maine accent (“Just give me the kinda terlet seat yah want”); Rebecca, who owns a farm and sells baked goods at the farmers market; Otto and Elise Gunther, survivors of Nazi Germany; and Hope, an 11-year-old with a drug-abusing mother and an abusive, heavy-drinking father; the girl takes care of Eli’s ponies. Zani’s engaging, descriptive narration is filled with powerful imagery, whether she’s describing a setting (“the sounds of the water beyond the trees could be heard here in the stillness. The bay quietly filling and emptying leaving the sand studded with clams”) or disclosing someone’s inner thoughts. Throughout, the author drops hints and uses periodic flashbacks—set during various stages of Grace’s early and teenage years—which make it clear that Eli is deeply troubled by something in his past that he’d rather not address. She skillfully weaves together what initially appear to be unrelated story threads and provides some surprising twists, as when Hope learns who her great-grandparents are, or when Eli finally overcomes his demons and his past comes roaring back, threatening to upend it all.

A quick read with likable characters and an affecting ending.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-948018-71-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2019

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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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