A well-wrought, deeply moving story.



A small act of violence shakes the rigid social hierarchy of 1960s Quito, Ecuador, in this haunting fable.

The gulf between Tommy Montovan, the young son of an affluent American diplomat, and Chaco Achuale, an impoverished Indian boy who herds his family’s sheep near Tommy’s house, couldn’t be wider. One day, outraged by the normal callousness meted out to livestock, Tommy hurls a rock that gashes Chaco’s cheek. The consequences for Chaco are harrowing: stitches from a drunken, cut-rate doctor that leave a disfiguring scar, and a bill that forces his family to go hungry for weeks. Tommy, a sensitive, religious child, is tormented by guilt, which adds to the pressure he feels from his stepmother Miriam, a beautiful, charismatic woman who beats Tommy and his siblings for the smallest infractions of her petty rules. When Chaco and his reluctant father show up to take what is for poor Indians the almost unthinkable step of demanding justice from rich gringos, Tommy lies his way out of it–then faces a devious campaign by Miriam to get him to confess. The seemingly straightforward confrontation illuminates the pressure cooker in which each boy lives. Chaco’s is defined by the limitations of poverty, a social system forever closed to him by high walls and guard dogs and the cultivated stoicism he must call on to endure both. Tommy’s is defined by Miriam, the wicked stepmother whose fairy-tale cruelty is but one element of her fascinating complexity. These characters inhabit a world of stark contrasts, governed by nuanced (and acutely observed) rituals of courtesy and deference through which the author maps out the realities of power and privilege and the subtle moral quandaries they impose. It’s a harsh reality, brought richly to life by Allan’s clear-eyed, often lyrical prose.

A well-wrought, deeply moving story.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2006

ISBN: 978-1-933454-01-6

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2011

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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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