Comic coming-of-ager pits a pair of Boston computer geeks against an aging mafioso and the insular neighborhood he controls. Jewelry-encrusted, cannelloni-chomping crime lord Davio Giaccalone, a denizen of the linked stories in Lyons’s nicely turned collection, The Last Good Man (1993), now symbolizes all that’s bad, violent, old, and stupid for Reilly and Evan, a pair of workaholic, arrested-adolescent programmers who share a not-so-cheap apartment in Boston’s rapidly gentrifying working-class Italian North End neighborhood. Reilly, the Irish- nebbish narrator, is especially sensitive to the abusive taunts he receives from Giaccalone’s weight-lifting, hood-in-training nephew Tony. The latter can’t understand what Maria Bava, the neighborhood’s prized sexpot, sees in Reilly, and he uses a dispute over a bill in his uncle’s cappuccino joint to beat up Reilly and vandalize his car. Reilly, however, likes Maria only as a friend, having fallen for, and then been jilted by, the be-freckled Jeanie. He’s also having problems on the job, where a bug-filled Internet application he’s developing with Evan for a Microsoft competitor may never function properly. Lyons creates several hilarious scenes showing how craven, nasty, and hypocritical the software business can get, and then he has Reilly, feeling a need to patch up his pride, kidnap Coco, Giaccalone’s racing greyhound, for ransom that he doesn’t really need. Reilly soon discovers, though, that he’s no match for old world menace and ends up escaping to Florida with the dog, Evan, and Maria, whose relatives are higher up the criminal ladder than Giaccalone and are eager to enforce a truce after she announces that Reilly is her fiancÇ. Alas, Reilly gets cold feet about committing to Maria—but after she goes to Russia with the Peace Corps, he lights out after her. Lyons’s antihero whines and pines a bit overmuch, but his debut novel charms with its dead-on satires of fey software drones and snide Gen-Xers who—ve swapped slacker ennui for angst-filled ambition.

Pub Date: June 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-684-84000-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1998

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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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