Conveys all of the tedium of ordinary life, but without any of the insight.



A lackluster debut chronicling a year in the life of a Tacoma schoolteacher whose boyfriend is stationed in Iraq.

The book is presented as the rough draft of a memoir—each chapter begins with a new working title. Annie Harper, 24, sees her writing project as a means of reflecting on the emotional difficulties experienced by women left alone during wartime. The initial seriousness soon falls away as Annie continues with life as usual—teaching third grade, hanging out with Gus, her best friend since childhood, recently returned from the Peace Corps. David, meanwhile, phones and e-mails from Iraq when he can. The tone of the novel, which attempts comedy but is more often satisfied with a kind of youthful flippancy, does nothing to convince the reader that Annie’s feelings for David were ever deep enough to warrant a memoir. Along the way, Annie volunteers at a retirement home and is assigned Loretta Schumacher as a conversation partner. Loretta, 93, is feisty and wise (aren’t they always) and helps Annie by offering her own reminiscences of being alone while her husband was overseas during World War II. On Loretta’s advice, Annie buys a chicken, and she revels in her new role as pet owner/mini farmer. With David away, Annie spends more time with Gus. Gus is brilliant (a Yale degree in philosophy), artistic (he has temporary work as a decorative painter) and just quirky enough to be interesting without being weird. And as Gus is straight, it’s fairly obvious where the plot is headed. Though a bit predictable, the novel’s real weakness is its sophomoric fascination with the mundane, the footnotes and appendixes that attempt a wry coolness but are instead hopelessly bland.

Conveys all of the tedium of ordinary life, but without any of the insight.

Pub Date: May 4, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-670-02077-5

Page Count: 326

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2009

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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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