A masterful portrait of the scholarly existence and the terrifying leap into adulthood.

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Eli's Children


This first novel by Nahum (Predicting the Future: Can We Do It? And If Not, Why Not?, 2014) charts the intellectual and emotional development of a budding medical student.

Joshua Clafston is offered the opportunity to study at the fictional Laurelton, an Ivy League school with a prestigious medical department. Here, he will mingle and compete with America’s “best and brightest” while steering a course toward maturity. Josh is, in every sense of the word, a prodigy, but his immersion in this intimidating intellectual environment causes him to run the gamut of emotions. One of his first encounters at Laurelton is with his roommate, Richard Haverford, a pompous, condescending know-it-all from the Midwest. But despite his initial nervousness and nagging sense of insecurity, Josh proves a plucky competitor in the ensuing intellectual joust. When Richard boasts that “there were few things more invigorating than reading The Odyssey in Latin,” Josh retorts, “Weren’t they [The Iliad and The Odyssey] originally written in Greek?” Richard responds, “Of course they were, but Latin was the original translation,” contradicting his initial vaunt about “the unshakable beauty of the native language in which a piece was written.” This conversation sets the tone of the novel—that of prodigious young minds attempting to fill, or conceal, gaps in their knowledge. As students from disparate localities and backgrounds come together, it makes for an engaging coming-of-age novel that examines the wounds (and sutures) of a group striving to attain the top level of academic excellence. Nahum, who himself attended Ivy League schools, has written this compelling novel in the first person, through the eyes of a likable, enviably intelligent narrator, and he vividly captures a challenging, ultimately life-transforming personal voyage through academia. His style is laconic and elegant, conveying facts clearly, without unnecessary elaboration, reflecting a fittingly matter-of-fact medical precision: “So in arriving here, you have been granted a two-edged sword,” says Laurelton’s president. “One offers you freedom, while the other enjoins you, even demands of you, to accept responsibility. Recognize this obligation, and revel in it.” Whether readers are anticipating or recalling college life, they’ll find this to be a charming, realistic account.

A masterful portrait of the scholarly existence and the terrifying leap into adulthood.

Pub Date: March 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4808-2291-7

Page Count: 596

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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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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