ONE SWEET QUARREL

A woman and her two brothers come of age in early 20th-century America in this warm, perceptive second novel from the author of Rima in the Weeds (1990). In 1973, the oldest residents of Shelby, Mont., have gathered in the local grade school's multipurpose room to receive a ``tribute'' from an unctuous former citizen, television actor Michael Cage. Cage wants to write a screenplay about the world heavyweight boxing championship held between Jack Dempsey and Tommy Gibbons in Shelby back in 1923, but he'll need the oldsters' help if he's to do a creditable job; hence the tribute, though the senior citizens themselves have other plans for this event. Daisy Lou Malone takes advantage of the speechifying to recall her youth in turn-of-the-century Minnesota, when she dreamed of being a singer but first had to care for her ailing mother. While Daisy Lou waited for her mom to die, her older brother Carlton set out on his own career as an all-around hustler while her remaining sibling, Jerry, went off to homestead land outside Shelby. By the time Daisy Lou arrived in New York—changing her name to Amelia, recording a few demo records, and performing at churches—it was the 1920's, and her fluttery personality had become as outdated as her musical style. Things could have been worse, though: at least Amelia avoided Jerry's bitterly hard frontier existence, whose only possible redemption would come in the form of an oil well. After the oil boom had passed, prodding Shelby's desperate citizens to dream up the championship fight as a way to lure investment dollars, innocent Amelia decided to come for a visit. The fight changed her life so decisively that she never again left Shelby, but found herself, instead, sitting in the multipurpose room 50 years later, flanked by a scheming brother and an ex-husband, conscientiously preparing for her final song. A pleasurable dip into a long-lost time with its nearly extinct brand of Americans—accomplished, entertaining fiction.

Pub Date: March 16, 1994

ISBN: 0-06-016868-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 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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