This is comfort-food fiction, undemanding and full of Moore’s sweet but not saccharine affection for his characters.

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THE SUPREMES SING THE HAPPY HEARTACHE BLUES

The three childhood friends Moore introduced in The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat (2013) are now in their early 60s and facing new challenges.

The three “Supremes” of Plainview, Indiana—a name that emphasizes the unpretentious tone of Moore’s storytelling—are down-home African-American women, except that Clarice is a concert pianist with a penchant for Beethoven, Barbara Jean is Plainview’s wealthiest philanthropist, and Odette—well, Odette talks to the dead. At the unlikely wedding of Clarice’s religious-zealot mother to the owner of a dive called the Pink Slipper Gentlemen’s Club that has only recently become “a respected music venue,” all three friends are moved by elderly blues singer El Walker’s rendition of the “Happy Heartache Blues.” And thus hangs the thread that winds a plot ever so loosely through the novel. El is actually Marcus Henry and the father of Odette’s husband, James. While a heroin addict, El abandoned his wife and small son after accidentally slicing James with a razor blade. El is off drugs, but diabetes lands him in the hospital, where his identity is revealed. As Odette tries to find a way for James and El to come to terms with each other, Clarice prepares for her big breakthrough concert in Chicago. Separated from her philandering husband, Richmond, she's enjoying her independence and their continuing active sex life, but she feels increasingly stifled by Richmond's needy desire for the kind of intimacy he withheld in the past. Recovering alcoholic Barbara Jean is in a happy second marriage and gets less page time than her friends. Subplots meander along concerning both serious issues like a father’s cruelty to his gay, cross-dressing son and sitcom clichés like a pompous, big-hatted would-be preacher lady whose hateful pretensions are exposed by an open microphone. Religion is central to most of these lives although its form ranges from fundamentalist Baptist to Unitarian.

This is comfort-food fiction, undemanding and full of Moore’s sweet but not saccharine affection for his characters.

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-10794-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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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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