A remarkable debut novel describing a young man’s coming of age amid the biker gangs of Oakland during the late 1960s. Single mothers are always going to have their hands full, but T-Bird Murphy’s mom knows where to turn for help: the Hell’s Angels. Ever since her husband’s been in jail, she’s dated a biker, so she can rely on the Angels to pitch in whenever there’s a crisis—and she gets more than her share. T-Bird himself seems to move from scrape to scrape, fighting off the blacks and Mexicans who mock his bookishness at school and ambush him almost nightly as he walks home. When T-Bird’s convict father gets paroled, however, Mom panics and persuades the Angels to help her leave the scene before he arrives. T-Bird stays on. He and his old man move to a trailer behind the gas station where they work, and for the first time ever, T-Bird savors the semblance of a normal family life. From his father he learns how to fight (—There’s no such thing as a fair fight. . . . Someone always wins, and someone always loses. It’s stupid to be the loser—), and soon the Mexicans regard him with a newfound respect. But by and by his old man turns increasingly violent and irrational, and T-Bird sets out on his own, working construction crews by day and playing trumpet in Bay Area bars by night. Brawling remains a part of existence, and T-Bird becomes an old hand at gang alliances and fights. The real miracle of his adolescence, however, is not merely that he survives, but that he flourishes—and emerges as an articulate, ambitious man. Refreshingly sincere and unaffected, Williamson’s chronicle provides a fascinating glimpse, from the inside, of a world that is rarely visible—and a marvelous account of one boy’s escape from it. (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-312-19861-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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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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