THE CITY BELOW

It's business as usual in Carroll's (Mortal Friends, 1978, etc.) newest historical saga as intrigue, ordeals, and passion abound in a compelling story of two brothers who rise from the dirty streets of Charlestown to Boston's circles of power. Terry and Nick (Squire) Doyle grew up in a small apartment above their grandfather's Charlestown flower shop in the shadow of Bunker Hill. Irish and Catholic to the core, the boys were one another's better halves until fate and their own driven natures warped their destinies. Both brothers achieve wealth and political influence, one at the expense of his honor, the other at the expense of his life. Terry renounces the call of priesthood to join Ted Kennedy's political team and to participate in the shady real estate developments that marked Boston in the 1980s. Nick dutifully takes over the flower shop but uses it as a front for his dealings with a mafioso's money-laundering and extortion operation. Violent racial conflict pervades this novel, first among the Italian and Irish thugs fighting for commercial control of Boston, and later among the Irish and blacks, who clash over Boston's busing discord of the 1970s. Betrayal is another dominant theme here: Squire misuses and eventually murders his brother-in-law; Terry's first girlfriend marries Squire; Squire sleeps with and impregnates Terry's wife; Squire bribes Terry's best friend and implicates and nearly ruins Terry in his nefarious mafia machinations. Carroll combines Boston's familiar turf and his staple historical personae—the Kennedys and Cardinal Cushing among them- -with a vibrant new cast of characters. The writing is dependable throughout (its strength being the dialogue), while the plotting offers spectacular twists, a breakneck pace, and a startling ending. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 12, 1994

ISBN: 0-395-59070-1

Page Count: 422

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

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.

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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