Cornpone sweet, rags-to-riches-to-rags allegory of a dreamy Alabama deejay who invents every major radio programming innovation of the last three decades, staggers to the top of a sprawling Deep South FM music radio empire, and gives it up for love, family, and the simple life. Second-novelist Keith (The Forever Season, 1995), an Alabama radio personality, sentimentalizes the rise of Jimmy Gill and his African-American electronics-whiz sidekick, Detroit Simmons, beginning with predictable childhood glimpses of Jimmy falling in love with his grandmother's cabinet-size Zenith tube radio, defying racial prohibitions to pal around with Simmons, and eventually encountering the drunks, misfits, and other socially marginal types at WROG-AM. Jimmy works his way on to the air; Detroit concocts gadgets that improve the station's operating efficiency. Because the FCC takes kindly to minority-owned stations, Jimmy and Detroit team up, with Detroit as nominal president, and use laundered drug money from no-good neighborhood juvenile delinquents Dwight and DeWayne George to buy a station. They build their holding into an FM radio chain on which they present a slower-paced, imaginative blend of rock, jazz, country, and folk music that conquers the airwaves. While Detroit is happy reinventing broadcast technology (he effortlessly knocks together a method of beaming radio signals via satellite), Jimmy falls for country music queen Cleo Michaels. He also starts popping pills as his radio empire becomes too large for him to handle. Venture capitalism transforms the nice, idealistic Jimmy into the mean, big-spending Mr. Gill, who's forced to account for these and darker sins when DeWayne George, now a professional hoodlum, tries to take everything away from him. A chastened Jimmy forsakes the world of big-time radio for a loving family and a backwoods station where he can play what he wants. A trite melodrama buries what could have been a savvy insider tale.

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-14769-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1996

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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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