An experienced novelist takes her sweet time to rich rewards: overall, an affecting saga, nicely handled.

VANISHING ACTS

Well-oiled Picoult sets her latest expertly devised search-and-rescue tale in rural New Hampshire, where a kidnapping case is uncovered 28 years too late.

As usual, Picoult (My Sister’s Keeper, 2004, etc.) spins a terrifically suspenseful tale by developing just the right human-interest elements to make a workable story. Single mom Delia Hopkins works with the local Wexton police and a bloodhound named Greta to find lost children. Delia’s close relationship with her divorced, 60-ish father, Andrew, who runs a senior-citizens’ home, grows strained when he’s suddenly arrested on kidnapping charges. The victim is Delia herself, named Bethany Matthews before her father fled with her from a drunken Mexican mother in Arizona. For 28 of her 32 years, Delia has believed her mother was dead. With Andrew extradited to Phoenix, the strange history of the case unravels, complicated by the choice of Delia’s fiancé, Eric (father of daughter Sophie), as Andrew’s lawyer and the assignment of her childhood buddy Fitz to cover the case for his newspaper. Picoult is a thorough, perceptive writer who deliberately presents alternating viewpoints, so that the truth seems constantly to be shifting. When Delia finally meets the attractive, remarried Elise Vasquez, she can’t quite vilify a woman who has been sober for many years and works as a curandera (healer). Her father’s story is both suspect and understandable, especially in light of his horrific treatment in prison, caught up in the violence of rival gangs. The magnetic Eric is a recovering alcoholic who falls off the wagon when stressed, while dependable, silent lover Fitz waits in the wings for his chance. Meanwhile, Delia and Sophie make a fascinating digression into the mythical world of the local Hopi tribe. At times, Picoult goes over the top, allowing Sophie to get lost so that Greta can find her and, at the eleventh hour, inserting into the trial the possibility of Delia’s sexual abuse .

An experienced novelist takes her sweet time to rich rewards: overall, an affecting saga, nicely handled.

Pub Date: March 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7434-5454-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2005

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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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