THE LEGEND OF OLIVIA COSMOS MONTEVIDEO

This tedious first novel offers yet another variation on the Diary of a Mad Housewife theme. Roberta and Andrew's only son, Gary, has been killed in Vietnam. Roberta signed papers so he could enlist at 17; Andrew works as an accountant at the Pentagon. Roberta goes to Arlington Cemetery every day; Andrew refuses to join her. Desperate for consolation, or at least unfamiliar surroundings, Roberta gathers up all the Trip-Tiks she can, gets into her car, and takes off. She picks up a hitchhiker (a draft-dodger and protester) to whom she can relate like a mother. When he grabs her purse and runs off, readers suspect his resemblance to Gary might be stronger than Roberta admits. She might think she shared a special bond with her son, but it's obviously not borne out by tales of his drug use or hints at his frequent lies. Upon entering New Mexico in a car about to break down, she spots a fortuitous road sign giving the mileage to three small towns: Olivia, Cosmos, and Montevideo. ``It reads like a name. My own name wilts by comparison.'' On impulse she assumes this new, ``exotic, dangerous'' name which, she realizes later, is ``a euphemistic way of saying `oblivion.' '' It puts her in perfect sync with the New Agers and Do-Gooders she meets in Santa Fe. And this is still less than halfway through this long-winded first-person narrative. If Roberta seems interestingly troubled and a bit quirky in the early pages, by the time she arrives in New Mexico she's simple-minded and egotistical. Warloe attempts to break out of Roberta/Olivia's whining monologue by interweaving several narratives: the present, memories of her life with her husband, memories of her son in various time frames, imaginary conversations she would have had with Gary if he'd returned from Vietnam. A more seasoned writer might have succeeded.

Pub Date: June 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-87113-564-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1994

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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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