A knowing service-drama/romance that’s neither an armed forces recruiting tool nor a trendy political broadside.

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Soldier On

In this debut novel, a young heroine on an American Air Force base in Afghanistan confronts a minefield of interpersonal relationships.

Molly McKinney, a Chicago girl barely out of her teens, is an aspiring doctor who joined the Army Reserve mainly to pay for medical school. But in 2003, she’s on duty in Bagram, Afghanistan, as a military police specialist, overseeing numbered and nicknamed Afghan PUCs (a military acronym for “persons under confinement”). These are prisoners and insurgents, assumed to have Taliban connections, some awaiting transit to Guantanamo Bay; they often fall on the thin line between ridiculous and scary. Although a Taliban rocket attack occurs early on, it turns out to be a routine, monthly affair with poor accuracy and no lasting repercussions. The real drama is the tangle of relationships among the young co-ed military in the arid, stifling atmosphere of the base. Virginal Molly is drawn to a lothario who turns out to already have a wife and child back home. Another comrade gets pregnant by a fellow soldier. Molly later begins a flirtatious relationship with Adam Beck, a somewhat overbearing sergeant who’s already seeing another girl but seems to save his more emotional, personal side for Molly. There’s a war going on as well, and Molly must deal with sleep deprivation, camel spiders, and new batches of PUCs; she also receives long-awaited R & R in cosmopolitan Qatar. Wynne’s debut is partially based on her own experiences as a U.S. Army reservist who served in the war in Afghanistan. But readers looking for a bitter, Bush-bashing exposé with improvised vehicle armor, Halliburton allegations, or Abu Ghraib–style prisoner abuse (or, conversely, Rambo-style combat firefights and patriotic triumphs) should deploy elsewhere; Wynne has no obvious agenda, other than to deliver a confidently told, modern coming-of-age story of college-age Americans far from home who make sometimes-disastrous choices—and a few good ones.

A knowing service-drama/romance that’s neither an armed forces recruiting tool nor a trendy political broadside.  

Pub Date: Dec. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-68289-164-3

Page Count: 174

Publisher: Page Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2016

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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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