NECESSARY MADNESS

Not only a first novel, but a first by a now-18-year-old writer—yet, surprisingly, this tale of a young woman's grief over the death of her artist husband tugs at the heartstrings with the best of them. Gloria Burgess was an unhappy child, with a mother frustrated at having to sacrifice a music career to raise her and a father who liked to pretend that Gloria was the reincarnation of a childhood sweetheart he'd loved and lost. Happiness came easily as an adult, though, when Gloria met and fell in love with London-based artist Bill Burgess, married him and had a child. She is 30 before tragedy strikes, taking her happiness away for good, it seems. Bill is diagnosed with leukemia, and Gloria must stand by helplessly as the best man she has ever known sickens and dies. Left alone after the funeral, she somehow manages to parent her eight-year-old son, carry on at her teaching job, and find a reason to live. Help comes in the form of her mother, who's anxious to atone for her mistakes, and, more interestingly, from Jascha Kremsky, an artist acquaintance of Bill's who wants Gloria's permission to stage a retrospective of Bill's work. As Gloria and Jascha work together on the show, he's able to share with her his own experience of grieving. His support and friendship see Gloria through the darkest hours until she feels ready to take up her life again. Crowell wrote this novel while finishing her senior year of high school. Its derivative tone, a minor defect from an author so young, subtracts very little from its fully-developed characters and maturity of content. A highly promising debut. (First printing of 150,000; film rights to Sony; Book-of-the-Month Club selection; $150,000 ad/promo)

Pub Date: March 10, 1997

ISBN: 0-399-14252-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1996

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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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