Southern writer Owen (Fat Lightning, 1994, etc.), an editor at the Richmond Times Dispatch, movingly details the moral education of a 40ish white male as he finally tries to do the right thing in his racially divided hometown. St. Andrews is small and seemingly quiet, which suits Walker Fann just fine. A man of decent instincts if timid disposition, he believes in small-town life, but St. Andrews is no Eden. Once a milltown called Cottondale, the name was changed in 1949 after a notorious riot. As the story opens in the early '90s, the people of St. Andrews are about to vote on whether the old slave market should be turned into a museum. The black leadership believe that the change would revive the downtown area; the whites fear it would only revive the past. Walker has led a privileged life, meanwhile: He's the publisher of the local newspaper and a golfing buddy of the town's movers and shakers. Unlike the rest of his circle, though, he has black friends and has long dreamed of becoming a crusading journalist. But he's also always deferred to his strong- willed father, Big Walker, who now fears that the paper's support of the museum will lead to a loss of advertising. Walker's life is described in part by his dead wife Mattie, who drowned a year before the story begins while the two were vacationing in Italy. Using a ghost as a narrator is a potentially creaky device, but it works here. And when the still-grieving Walker, pursuing the young black boy who stole his favorite baseball mitt, finds himself drawn by his black acquaintances R.J. and Rasheed Aziz into a fight he doesn't want to fight—writing an editorial in favor of the museum- -Mattie is there willing him to do the right thing. Which he eventually does, though not before lives are lost and old friendships tested. A journey of the soul that warms and cheers.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-06-018654-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1996

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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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