A troubled boy triumphs over death by talking to a puddle—in this pillow-soft, feel-good first novel from Ohio writer Lamb. Twelve-year-old Nick hears voices when he ventures beyond the tragedy-stricken boundaries of his family's Ohio farm. A few months before, a road accident killed his father and left his mother bedridden, leaving Nick in the care of a lonely alcoholic aunt. Seeking solace along familiar paths and streams, the boy also communicates with Indian dead from a nearby burial mound, listening as they bemoan bitterly their murder long ago by a marauding tribe. One day after a rainstorm, Nick is stopped by a new voice—this one coming from a fresh puddle and begging him for help. Thus begins a crucial phase in Nick's recovery as he and the puddle swap thoughts and discuss the hard truths of love and loss. When the stray barn- cat he's befriended (and named The Ghost) is diagnosed with feline AIDS and grows steadily sicker, Nick makes a painful choice to end its misery—an act that at last allows him to come to terms with reality. Silencing the Indian voices, permitting dead neighbors and a girlfriend killed by a train to exit his world—where they had continued to carry on as if alive—he also sets free his mother, who actually died a few days after the accident. The puddle-voice is liberated as well—by the heat of summer and a thirsty dog; the dog then becomes Nick's companion, making him a normal country boy once more. Cutesy philosophizing is bad enough, but when added to watered-down, washed-out characters and a Disney-happy plot, an already thin debut story gets all the less appealing.

Pub Date: July 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-684-80358-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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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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