Superb, often laugh-out-loud first half. Then no more jokes.

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COYOTE MOON

Miller abandons suspense (Tropical Heat, 2002, etc.) for what at first looks like a supernatural satire on baseball, reincarnation, and quantum physics—with some of the funniest sports spoofs since Ring Lardner.

When his best friend and deep intellectual companion, Arthur Hodges, a genius physicist and fellow mathematician, dies at 40 (still a stone virgin, wholly obsessed with math theory), Archibald Rhodes, better known as Benny, distinguished professor of mathematics, etc., at MIT and now in his early 60s, gives up his job and boring 40-year marriage to a wealthy wife to go on the road in a mobile home and live up his later years. As for the late Arthur, he’s seemingly too fine a mind to waste merely on death. Had he not been destined to be Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, a chair once held by Sir Isaac Newton himself? In Oklahoma, Benny picks up Becky Morgan, a waitress who has just had her third abortion in 18 months, and settles down with her on the boiling hot edge of the Mojave Desert. She’s gravid yet again. Happy Benny now loses his lifelong interest in the Boston Red Sox, an interest once wholly ignored by Arthur. Meanwhile, the Oakland A’s have signed on Henry Spencer, a phenomenal catcher from North Carolina just out of the Army after three years. Henry, called “Soldier” by his astounded teammates, is supernaturally gifted, it seems, and may well be the greatest baseball player of all time. A magnificent and universally envied physical specimen, Henry’s quite pleasantly weird, can’t remember his past, and speaks of baseball as quantum physics, as if he’s Sir Isaac Newton himself. His teammates, all borderline morons, reel, stunned by Henry’s crazy grasp of the game as he speaks of pitches in terms of Max Planck, Einstein, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, Schrödinger’s cat, and theoretical physics. So what’ll happen if and when Benny meets Henry and sees, hmm, Arthur?

Superb, often laugh-out-loud first half. Then no more jokes.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-765-30627-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2003

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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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