A novel that wavers between fireball excitement and abysmal vulgarity, that leaves the reader dazed with complexities and a feeling that greater spiritual health might have resulted through never having read it—though zillions will. Robbins is no clearer this time out than he's ever been. The sex-and-cocaine-driven, power-hungry plot begins with such rapid editing and scene-switching that the reader's feet barely get grounded before they're somewhere else: For about a third of the novel it's straight action/adventure on the Amazon; then the byzantine plot becomes Robbins's fettuccine Alfredo, with strands dipping and whipping and doubling back until even the main characters don't know who's on whose side—and even the most unaware reader realizes that Robbins's storytelling is as important as his story. If you can follow it, Robbins has failed. Jed Stevens (formerly Di Stefano) is induced by his Mafia cousin Angelo into a trip up the Amazon that turns out to be a big coca-leaf buy; they are accompanied by beautiful translator Alma, who is immensely proud of her ``Peruvian pussy''—but they are attacked by mestizos, Angelo is eaten by piranhas, and Alma gets Jed out of Peru and back to Manhattan, where Jed's Uncle Rocco (Angelo's father) is top capo and wants Jed to join him in the Mafia except that Jed wants to get into airlines and with a big loan from Uncle Rocco buys fleets of jetliners and rents them out to small countries but then finds himself involved in huge junk-bond deals and more or less legitimate credit scams while Uncle Rocco unsuccessfully tries to retire from the Mafia so that he can die with honor at home in bed rather than by a hail of bullets during a time when lead-filled bodies are falling on every other page and surreal financial deals are clinched by world-hopping satyrs and girls who say, ``Would you like some pussy pie? But just remember, you'll have to lick your fingers, it's very, very juicy.'' Unclean, unclean!

Pub Date: June 27, 1991

ISBN: 0-671-52479-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1991

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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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