An engaging and instructive adventure that emphasizes humans’ collective ability to rise above life’s challenges.



This novel sees a secluded tribe thrive on forgiveness and a dedication to building emotional bridges.

A meteor struck a valley long ago, creating the crater called Elgiba. The Mahari tribe has made a pilgrimage there for a celebration of the planting season. It has also been seven generations since Hu Mani, or the Great Ruin involving war and environmental despoliation. Heglen is the tribe’s cóntagé, which combines priest, historian, and storyteller. He and his wife, Gerda, have a young son named Matego. Sons are precious to the Mahari, for not even King Josef and Queen Hashti have one yet as heir to the throne. A certain tribesman adopted from the warlike Shimani people, the Principal Hunter known as Stebin, knows this and hopes to corrupt the peaceful Mahari. He lures Matego away from his family during the festival, but fails to kidnap him. Later, tragedy befalls the tribe and Stebin takes to the wilds to recruit warriors for his long-simmering revenge scheme. Despite this danger, King Josef travels to the Word Tree, an ancient oak that’s inscribed with Mahari lineage and wisdom. Will he return hale, hearty, and filled with knowledge to help guide his people, including his latest child, yet to be born? In this generations-spanning saga, Underwood (Growing Lavender and Other Poems, 2007, etc.) illuminates a society stripped down to the essentials of relationships, art, learning, and faith. Stebin’s sly villainy mirrors that of a real-world sociopath, as he frequently subverts the Mahari rule that requires three witnesses to convict someone before the Council. He will never understand that “for every reason to hate, there is a higher reason to love.” Narrative tension rises when Queen Hashti gives birth to Prince Rahabem, who knows only love and is deeply vulnerable. The author also generates mystery with the notion of the Other Side, which harbors great truths for the Mahari. When the tribe’s essence is threatened, the means to carry on comes from the least expected source. Colorful images by debut illustrator Harlukowicz beautify the text.

An engaging and instructive adventure that emphasizes humans’ collective ability to rise above life’s challenges.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-73220-950-3

Page Count: 508

Publisher: Iris

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

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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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