An effective blend of the magical and the creepy.

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THE AMNESIA CLINIC

In this tragic coming-of-age tale, storytelling exalts, but also kills.

Fifteen-year-old Fabián, spoiled, orphaned, rebellious and cute, is a fabulist given to spinning yarns about shaman ancestors. Anti, asthmatic and timorous, is enthralled. And given debut novelist Scudamore’s narrative skill, so is the reader. Living with his surgeon uncle in 1990s Quito—home, according to Ecuadorian legend, of an Incan city in the clouds—Fabián’s a raffish show-off, capable of tying “knots in a capuli stalk with his tongue”; he’s also a charming liar. A born sidekick, Anti’s an ex-pat in flight from drab England with his journalist father and his mother, a psychologist studying mestizo culture. He worships Ecuador and Fabián, so much so that his parents threaten to return him to England’s duller, but more salubrious, air. Dazzling Fabián has his own sorrow; he weeps in secret over his parents. Drunk one night, he tells Anti of their demise: His father, after being gored in a bullfight, was being rushed to the hospital by his mother when the car crashed, his mother hurled from the wreck. Convinced she’s still alive, Fabián enlists Anti to join him in a cross-country trek—a final Ecuadorian idyll for the Brit and a chance for Fabián to search for his mother, secluded, he believes, in an amnesia clinic in the hills. Teenage runaway fantasies ensue as the boys embark—Fabián’s wild night in a brothel, Anti’s spicy initiation into the ways of love courtesy of Sally Lightfoot, a hippie adventuress who’s also a bounty hunter of whales. In an echo, perhaps a bit too reminiscent, of John Knowles’s A Separate Peace, golden-boy Fabián ends up the victim of his desperate belief in the power of myth-making and tale-telling to compensate for the disappointments of real life.

An effective blend of the magical and the creepy.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2007

ISBN: 0-15-101265-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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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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