A love-hate relationship between a father and his son heats up to a competitive flash point in Brown's propulsive fourth book (Final Performance, 1988, etc.). Bobby Barlow, now 30, looks back at the teenage years he spent with his father, Floyd, a car thief, gambler, and all-round bad- news guy, in the late '60s in Portland and Las Vegas. Floyd becomes enamored of Melinda Johnson, a beautiful former prostitute who is working as a receptionist while going to law school at night. When Floyd loses two fingers in an accident at the mill where he is working and the insurance company insists it will pay for only one and a half since one finger was chopped off at the first knuckle, he kidnaps an insurance executive, threatens to slice off his fingers, then dumps him and makes off with his Cadillac. Floyd and Bobby then pick up Melinda and get involved in a chase with the police, not only because of the stolen car, but also because Melinda's boyfriend, Bo Stenovich, is a cop. After a few years in prison for Floyd and a foster home for Bobby, the two are reunited and set out to hook up with Melinda again, even though she married Bo a few days after the arrest. Their crimes escalate from petty to more and more serious, but through it all Bobby is enthralled by his father, even as he comes to realize that he is more of a parent to Floyd than Floyd is to him. Bobby's voice is matter-of-fact, and he often states the most surprising information flatly and to comic effect. The male version of Mona Simpson's Anywhere But Here but so much better. Tense as we experience the Barlow guys' emotional and physical thrills.

Pub Date: May 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-15-100067-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1994

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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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