A dozen tales of the American Irish—sharp-tongued, silly, and so whimsical they leave nary a memory—by the author of Available Light (not reviewed). The title is a tip-off: Currie's characters often drift off into meaningless wordplay just when you'd think they'd want to pay closest attention to what's going on. In the title story, a young couple indulges in rhyming games as an unexpected pregnancy threatens to tear their marriage apart; in ``The Solution to Canned Peas,'' an estranged middle-aged couple exchanges barbs in the kitchen even as the rift between them proves too deep to cross; in ``Slim Young Woman in No Distress,'' a desperately ill woman teases her young son, preferring not to face the fact that she'll soon lose him; and in ``Exit Interview,'' an advertising executive wittily reviews a client meeting with his frighteningly youthful assistant and lover while fending off thoughts of his dying wife. Tragedy and a morbid sense of wonder lie just beneath the surface of all the stories in this collection, though it's often difficult to spot these elements behind the veil of incessant banter. True as it is that in this world most folks will take denial if it's offered to them, one longs for a bit more passion and substantially fewer words. This is particularly the case in ``Yesterday's Lilies, Dollar A Stem. An Epsilon,'' in which the son of an Irish caretaker couple learns that his mother may have tried to kill herself and rolls around, laughing, with the family dog; in ``Old Hag, You Have Killed Me,'' whose protagonists bicker over hair color while their father dies in the hospital; and in ``Whatever You Say, Say Nothing,'' in which a woman who's just given birth amuses herself with baiting her mother even as her husband leaves her for another man. Light comedy; sometimes charming, but rarely involving.

Pub Date: May 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-671-65673-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1994

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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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