A rambling and oddly good-natured debut describing a childhood spent on the wrong side of the tracks. Any number of novels have been written about unhappy childhoods and bizarre families, but this one surpasses many—at least on the weirdo scale. Narrated by Dough Lunt, it’s a recollection of his first years in the aptly named western town of Tenderloin, where he and his brother Pill were moved when their mother’s boyfriend found work at the local meat-packing factory. The Lunt boys, having grown up in Duluth, are not quite prepared for life among the rednecks, and the trailer park where their mother deposits them doesn—t exactly introduce them to the cream of Tenderloin society. French, their mother’s pothead boyfriend, moves in with them, and soon he and Mrs. Lunt are hosting swingers” parties every Friday, while Dough and Pill find themselves in school with the kind of backwoods girls who can perform sex acts long before they know what menstruation is. Still fairly innocent at the age of 11, Dough is nevertheless well accustomed to the sight of grownups copulating on sofas and pulling knives on their girlfriends—and, eventually, he takes up religion in a half-hearted attempt to put order and a modicum of decency into his life. Meno arranges his tale episodically, concentrating on specific characters or incidents in each chapter (the tango dancer who moves into the trailer next door, or the birthday party spoiled by bickering relatives). Although extremely vivid, it suffers badly from this arrangement, which provides no central narrative to make its parts cohere. The final effect is somewhat pointless. Less than the sum of its parts, Meno’s story would have made a few good sketches. As a novel, though, it has the stilted, heavy feel of a wingless bird trying to fly.

Pub Date: March 11, 1999

ISBN: 0-312-20051-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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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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