All too short but powerful; beautifully written, well-observed and effective.



A 17-year-old undergoes training as a psychiatric technician at a California state hospital in this fictionalized memoir.

Davis (Road Stories, 2013) bases this novel on his experience in a training program for psychiatric technicians at then–Sonoma State Hospital in Eldridge, California, beginning in 1970 when he was 17. Noting that the book is fictional, Davis states that he has “taken some liberties to serve the story. But the place and the people are just as I remember them.” Davis skillfully evokes the setting with its hierarchies, routines, customs and varied characters. A shift supervisor explains the classifications for one ward: “The Thunderbirds…are mostly high functioning morons. The Falcons are mostly imbeciles, The Ravens mostly mongoloids with a few cretins.” The narrator’s tour that day ends in a small outdoor yard: “The Thunderbirds, Falcons and Ravens were all there; sitting or rocking or staring up at the sky through the fencing that sealed off the top of the space as well as the walls.” Medications, the narrator learns, “did most of the supervising.” Characteristic of the book as a whole, the quiet contrast here between the patients’ soaring bird names and the reality of their caged lives is the more poignant for its understatement. There are few snake-pit horrors here, but more prevalent is the sadness that results when the best solutions available are bad ones. When a trainee trying to restore range of motion pushes a little too far, “the sound of her case study’s arm breaking echoed through the ward like a branch snapping in the forest.” The narrator’s compassion, the way he listens to and really looks at his patients, is a reminder of the possibilities for connection even among the grimmest surroundings, balanced by an acknowledgement of the limitations. Gerald, for example, is a hard case known for biting (until his teeth were pulled out) and running away (until an orthopedic surgeon’s operation prevents it). The narrator manages to build a tentative, fragile understanding with Gerald, but even so, he can’t give him the freedom he craves.

All too short but powerful; beautifully written, well-observed and effective.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0986069727

Page Count: 86

Publisher: The Wedgewood Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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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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