Far more than just a paint-by-numbers story of a small town.

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THE MURAL

A NOVEL

In Halverson’s debut novel, a mysterious mural appears overnight on the side of a building in an Arizona town, sparking a range of emotions and examinations of life.

How humans spend their brief time on Earth has been the subject of countless tales. Seemingly endless, time is actually limited and precious. That’s the theme of Halverson’s simple mystery story with shades of something much more profound. Tyler Anderson, a reporter for a news site in Phoenix, yearns to write about something other than the minutiae of municipal affairs. His chance comes when his editor sends him to Ketchum, a sleepy former mining town, to write about a large mural by an unknown artist that appeared overnight on the side of a warehouse. Expecting to simply identify the artist and write the story, Anderson finds more than he bargained for. Due to its unique effects on every person who sees it, the mural attracts attention from all over, and it’s now become the heart of a long-simmering rivalry between Mayor George Correa and the warehouse’s owner, Samuel Welch. As Anderson investigates his story, he realizes it’s about more than just identifying the mystery artist; it’s about people’s expectations, how to stop bemoaning fate and how to use precious time wisely. The well-written story starts as a character study of Anderson, veers into an examination of why Samuel insists on painting over the mural, and finally becomes a look at the human soul and how some people are willing to give up their dreams just to get through life. Filled with intriguing characters—fry cook Abdullah Park, waitress Audrey Betz, struggling artist Grady James—the story takes a few unnecessary back-story detours and requires a suspension of disbelief that might be too much for some readers. But Halverson is after a different audience: those who know life must be lived and felt, not just experienced.

Far more than just a paint-by-numbers story of a small town.

Pub Date: July 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0692225868

Page Count: 266

Publisher: Grand Strand Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2014

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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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