An incisive, if at times overly complex, view of the disintegration of a modern family—in a first novel from the author of two story collections (A Wild, Cold State, 1995, etc.). Maidie, twice divorced and in her mid-30s, is the newly hired curator of the Museum of Domestic History and Home Economy (soon to be renamed the Women's History Museum) in Tucson. Having walked out on her abusive last husband, Maidie views the new job as a fresh start. Ironically enough, she is a sociologist specializing in family dynamics, despite the fact that she hasn't come close to creating an ordinary family of her own. Her mother, raised motherless herself, abandoned Maidie and her two sisters as children, leaving the young girls in the care of their father and the kindly old couple next door to their home in Minnesota. Memories of the past, of her failed romances, and of the extended families that converge on those recollections intrude on Maidie's current life, coloring the fresh start she hoped to make. In her first days in Tucson, meanwhile, she meets the sexy, if much older, Rex, who rents antiques from the museum for film props, and she also inadvertently becomes part of the large extended family that takes up much of the neighborhood she lives in. As Maidie slips into this new tribe, spending a lot of her time with the clan's eccentric matriarch, she begins to feel restless, then finds herself yearning for yet another new start—somewhere else. When a phone call from her mother, whom she hasn't spoken with in over 20 years, beckons her to California, Maidie is finally compelled to face her complex and conflicted feelings about families and independence. Overburdened with flashbacks, which slow the pace, but a debut that nonetheless raises pertinent questions about the fate of modern-day families, and offers some answers in an agreeably sardonic tone. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-684-81905-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1997

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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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