A sensitive, engrossing exploration of the complexities of family relationships.



Debut author Hendershot’s novel chronicles 30 years in the lives of a Midwestern family’s members.

In 1972, teenage Janey agonizes over having given up her baby for adoption. She held her infant son, whom she called James, for only a few minutes before he was taken away. At her therapist’s recommendation, she deals with her grief by writing letters to James, a practice she continues for over 20 years. In the letters, she tells stories of her own childhood and young adulthood. These missives are juxtaposed with the story of Janey’s life as a grown woman, focusing primarily on her beloved father’s battle with kidney disease, complicated by her sibling relationships. Although Janey is close with her sister Tara, her relationship with her other sister, “Pretty Perfect Peggy,” has always been fraught; the pain of Peggy’s accusation that she embarrassed the family is compounded by the fact that Peggy later names her own son James. It’s an affront that Janey can’t forgive or forget. This novel doesn’t aim to tell the story of a birth mother trying to find her child; rather, it’s about a woman whose life is defined by one major, heartbreaking event. The interspersion of the letters—generally very short vignettes—keeps the novel from becoming too depressing, as Janey’s father’s health deteriorates and she learns more about her son’s fate. Throughout, Hendershot skillfully and realistically examines the family’s dynamics and their accompanying underlying tensions. There are occasional inconsistencies, such as Janey’s surprising lack of curiosity when she does learn more about her son. However, despite all the story’s heartache, it concludes in a surprisingly upbeat manner, suggesting that Janey may at last find personal happiness. It provides a useful lesson that not only can people find life and love after the age of 40, but they can also continue to grow emotionally.

A sensitive, engrossing exploration of the complexities of family relationships.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1494777074

Page Count: 298

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2014

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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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