ROBERT, MY SON

Denker's newest medical melodrama (The Healers, Kincaid) seems designed to instill in all parents of a bright, daring if moody overachiever the fear that their child may actually be clinically insane, and that the aforementioned traits are just symptoms of the illness. We meet the beautiful former star of soap operas, Claire Ward, and her network V.P. workaholic husband, Don, who is never home (guaranteed bummer) when his son needs him; Robert, their adopted son, is brilliant, athletic, idealistic and genetically cursed with manic depression. The plot clanks along by formula: in typical horror-story fashion, the perfect boy's affliction shows up first in small ways, then swells to vast and incredible proportions—at a punk-rock concert he jumps up onto the stage and tries to wrest the guitar out of the hands of the leader, provoking a riot. But his worst breakdown is precipitated when, though his team's ahead, quarterback Robbie throws away the ball in the last 14 seconds of the championship game. Next we have a rote detective mini-plot as the Wards trace Robert's natural mother, only to learn that she committed suicide in an asylum. Calamity follows upon calamity, and the characters, with their slow reactions and perpetual amazement, are ludicrous indeed. At the end, we sit for the second time through the same vigil with his parents—word for word—that we witnessed in Chapter One. Worst of all, Denker trivializes the complexity of mental illness, particularly among minors, dealing with it as a creepy foreordained disease in which the patient's only hope is to passively take his drugs. If Robert, My Son surprises at all it is simply that at the end of a work so devoid of any save accidental humor, it is revealed that the grim Don Ward will embark on a new career as a comedy writer—too late, though, to save this book.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1985

ISBN: 0688059570

Page Count: 311

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1985

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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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