A hypnotic tale of family secrets that also features delightfully silly humor.

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STUCK IN MANISTIQUE

Two troubled lives intersect in a novel combining cozy mystery, comedy, and reflections on fractured relationships.

Mark is a 30-something financial planner from Chicago who inherits his long-lost aunt’s house in Michigan’s rural Upper Peninsula, near Canada. He’s extremely phobic about driving on bridges, so he can only reach his late Aunt Vivian’s home in tiny Manistique by closing his eyes and letting a volunteer driver take him across the roughly 5-mile Mackinac Bridge. Emily, a 24-year-old medical school graduate, is traumatized after hitting a deer with her car while lost in thought about an adulterous affair and a mistake that caused a patient’s death. Stranded in Manistique while awaiting windshield repairs, she seeks shelter at Vivian’s house, which is also be a bed-and-breakfast. Mark, the only person there, is caught off guard, but he tries to accommodate her. He soon becomes, in his own words, “the worst innkeeper imaginable.” Cuesta creates an eccentric cast of townies and further houseguests, including a narcoleptic tourist who’s attempting to be the first person to ever drive around Lake Michigan in an electric car. Along the way, he use his characters’ foibles to deliver Fawlty Towers-style farce, as when Mark ineptly tries to hide the demise of an elderly houseguest. But there’s a sober side to the novel, as well, such as when Vivian’s handyman, Bear Foot, starts a fire in the backyard to help Vivian’s “thundering spirit” journey to the next world. Mark only met his aunt once, as a young child, and he knows little about her except that she was adopted, worked as an international aid doctor in war zones, and figured in his memory like a “saint”; he marvels when Bear Foot talks about her Native American heritage. Cuesta ping-pongs between Mark’s and Emily’s stories before smoothly bringing them together as more houseguests arrive and the young doctor discovers a book containing one of Vivian’s essays. Throughout the novel, the author’s descriptions of Upper Peninsula settings are simple yet evocative, as when Mark releases Vivian’s ashes into a lake and they form “a mesmerizing cloud beneath the surface.”

A hypnotic tale of family secrets that also features delightfully silly humor.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-73241-090-9

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Celestial Eyes Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

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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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