With her usual sharp eye for contemporary fads and follies, the author of Looking for Leo (1992), among others, limns the near- destruction of a seemingly perfect marriage. Set mostly in Montecito, California—``a paradise place''—the events endangering the many-years marriage of Annie and Mickey Wilder begin on Thanksgiving Eve as Annie, whose 45th birthday it is, prepares for the family reunion. This longtime wife and mother, a travel writer who's just passed the age at which her own mother died, is depressed. Her career is going nowhere, her children are grown, and she feels ``halved, withered in some way.'' The holiday is further troubled by Mickey's failure to answer Annie's question: ``Are you having an affair?'' The two were childhood sweethearts and neighbors in New York City, where they'd married and lived until Mickey's acting career brought them west. Now the star of a popular TV series, Mickey is enjoying the biggest success of his life. And so, with the scene set, the plot takes over, piling more incidents into the poor Wilders' lives than a pileup on a freeway. After the tense holiday with children and in-laws—all with their own problems—the onslaught begins. Within a few days, Annie is smitten with visiting Englishman Oliver; their accountant Leo disappears with all their money; Mickey's series is canceled; and Annie learns about his affair with potter Ivy Clare. Then a beloved dog dies, as does Annie's father, and Annie herself, after a torrid time with Oliver in Britain and a surreal meeting with Leo in Japan, falls ill and nearly dies—an event that, of course, brings everyone together, wiser and stronger. To be enjoyed for what it is: a page-turner with an unlikely plot, redeemed by wit and insights into that rare animal, a long- lived marriage.

Pub Date: July 7, 1995

ISBN: 0-316-59675-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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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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