LEAVING EARTH

Canadian Humphreys debuts with the story of two women pilots who try, in August 1933, to break a record by staying aloft for 25 days—in a novel with plenty of period interest but less depth—or height—of psychology and character than could be wished. Famous Grace O—Gorman, known as —Air Ace Grace,— sets out to break the in-air record now held by her over-the-hill husband Jack—who’s not happy to see his wife trying to grab the last record he—ll ever set. But Grace pushes ahead, and, when her intended copilot breaks her wrist, takes on the younger and less-experienced Willa Briggs (Grace is 33, Willa 23).Up they go in a Moth DH60T, a one-engine biplane with wire struts and fabric skin, to begin 25 days of 10-minute circles over the neighborhoods, docks, and waters of Toronto. Once they—re up, Humphreys offers much that’s of considerable interest—how the women refuel in the air, get food (both from a plane flown by the not-quite-to-be-trusted Jack), how they stay clean, go to the bathroom, communicate, keep from falling asleep. But there’s unquestionably a sameness about things—and the book turns to one complication and another for its density: on the ground is 12-year-old Maddy Stewart, whose infatuation for the famous flier is almost boundless—even to the point of her imagining Grace to be her real mother, while her actual parents(Jewish mother a fortuneteller, nostalgic Scots father the operator of a merry- go-round)make their way through the homely, money-pinched days of a Depression August—and feel the wrath of early Nazis, members of —the Swastika Club,— who maraud when it suits them—as it does after Maddy’s prize-fighting uncle, Simon Kahane, wins over a boxer who’s German. Everything about the airplane—with its 40-gallon gas tank and top speed of 80 mph—is marvelously done, as are the locales of long-ago Toronto, but the tales and characters that keep the rest going just don—t hold their altitude, declining toward the tones of a YA.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8050-5957-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1998

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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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