Strong, lip-smacking suspense with an occult overwash that more or less avoids genre categorization.

PHANTOM NIGHTS

Perhaps Farris’s best yet shows him, like Dean Koontz in his recent work, striving for greater substance.

With all of Farris’s magical, down-home western Tennessee details (the story takes place in a richly evoked 1952), readers may initially expect straightforward, mainstream southern fiction like To Kill a Mockingbird. Until they get to passages like this, with similes singing: “And the days of his childhood had run long and playful, the quick nights slept away while his heart held the heat and lure of the sun. Now his days were shorter, shadowed, intolerable; his heart, like the sun, was dying in his breast.” This sultry, July-evening anguish belongs to Leland Howard of Evening Shade. Now in the last week of his race for governor, he rapes a widowed young black woman and accidentally causes her death (his hounds tear her to pieces, offstage). The victim is Mally Shaw, a nurse who saved the life of 14-year-old mute Alex Gambier, who likes to test his mettle by lying on the tracks at Cole’s Crossing as the Dixie Traveler roars over him. Mally nursed Leland’s father, the banker Priest Howard, who died in distrust of his son and left Mally evidence that Leland committed fraud. After her death, Mally’s spirit returns one evening at Cole’s Crossing and, together with Alex (who witnessed her rape), plans Leland’s just rewards. The mute boy can talk aloud only with Mally, and their evenings at the Crossing, where a spirit train picks up the dead, become the eponymous phantom nights. Also on hand is Mally’s cultivated father, Dr. Ramses Valjean, who joins with Alex’s brother Bobby, Evening Shade’s acting sheriff, to track down clues condemning Howard.

Strong, lip-smacking suspense with an occult overwash that more or less avoids genre categorization.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-765-30778-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 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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