Erin go Blah.

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THE LACE MAKERS OF GLENMARA

In the aftermath of a bad relationship and her mother’s untimely death, a Seattle seamstress flees to her ancestral Ireland.

Glenmara, the fictional setting of Barbieri’s disappointing second novel (after Snow in July, 2004), is a decaying hamlet near the rocky Galway coast. Despite endemic poverty, the village boasts a lace-makers guild: craftswomen who eke out a few euros on tea towels and napkins sold at the village market, when they’re not edging altar cloths gratis for curmudgeonly parish priest Father Byrne. Into this anachronistic world wanders Kate, a failed fashion designer who left Seattle for Ireland after her mother succumbed to cancer and her boyfriend dumped her for a model. Elder lace-maker Bernie, widowed and childless, opens her home to the waiflike American. The women demonstrate their delicate art to Kate and tell their stories. Oona is a breast-cancer survivor. Colleen, whose angelic singing voice marks her as a descendent of the mythical selkies (mermaids), fears the sea may claim her fisherman husband. Aileen is troubled by her teenage daughter’s Goth phase. Moira lives in fear of her abusive spouse and lies about the origin of the bruises on her face. Kate is introduced to the craics (dances), where she bests Aileen at stepdancing, and to Sullivan, the town Lothario, whose black hair and piercing eyes telegraph that he’s the one for her. The central conceit here, reminiscent of Joanne Harris’s Chocolat (1999), is that a newcomer introduces a magical Macguffin. In this case, it’s Kate’s new line of lingerie trimmed with Glenmara lace, which not only revives guild members’ marriages, but also challenge the forces of prudery and male oppression. The promising fracas generated by the “knicker wars”—Byrne denounces the guild from the pulpit—dissipates when the priest is conveniently downsized. Barbieri’s amateurish prose, replete with comma splices and misplaced modifiers, is utterly unworthy of Yeats, Trevor, O’Brien and other masters whose names are dropped like wishful talismans throughout.

Erin go Blah.

Pub Date: July 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-172155-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2009

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

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.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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