Poet Matlin's debut novel—set in the 40's and early 50's on the southern California chaparral close to the Mohave Desert— brings to life a Jewish family who raise roses and a Kiowa Okie who serves as a memory bank for Indian and local lore. Tom Green, the Kiowa Okie, knows how to irrigate, and so he helps the immigrant Jews, even though ``In the local papers the local people complained about the herd of Jews being kept there.'' Like the Jews, who hire concentration camp survivors and live almost as much in the spirit of their racial history as they do on their farm, Green—who's in love with Anna, an old actress—is a repository of history. The book, narrated mostly by one of the Jewish farmer's children, juxtaposes the two very different sorts of history, textures the narrative with atmospheric detail, and brings all the various tribes together at the end for the Rancho ride—a great ritual and an occasion for celebration. Matlin takes us along via the farmer's son to explore the chaparral in late August, the Santa Ana winds (``Once the wind gets into a house there was no telling what it or the things it carried might do''), and earthquakes, landslides, bougainvillea, rains, the method of packing a tractor-trailer, and the seasonal vicissitudes of growing roses and growing up. Green's story, on the other hand, is about poverty, day-to-day survival, drugs, and, more pleasantly, his line of ``Butterfly Dreamers''—women who prophesy the future from the whisper of the insects' wings. This has as much to do with history as with fiction (Matlin also packs in an essay on rose tending from ancient times to the present), but its sense of place is dead to rights. Short on plot and character, then, but with narrative charms that more than compensate.

Pub Date: May 21, 1993

ISBN: 0-929701-33-X

Page Count: 201

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1993

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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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