A frank and funny coming-of-age story with a rousing soundtrack.

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My Name Is Tom

In this music-powered story, a young man sets out to reclaim his prized record collection after pawning it during a period of drug-fueled indiscretion.

The result of a teenage pregnancy in 1970, the protagonist is given up for adoption as a newborn and raised by a terribly uptight mother and a much more lackadaisical father in Birmingham, England. Thomas Luke Joyce isn’t terribly ambitious or clever, but when he buys his first single at the age of 13—The Style Council’s “Speak Like a Child”—he finds a reason for being. Throughout the 1980s, Tom amasses a massive collection of vinyl from the likes of The Cure, New Order, and The Smiths, working for his accountant father solely to make enough money to buy more records. But when his friend Gary introduces him to rave culture, everything changes. Despite hating the “rubbish” music with every fiber of his being, Tom finds himself spending every Friday high on Ecstasy, dancing until dawn. Soon, he starts selling his beloved records to fund his new lifestyle. But when one night out goes awry thanks to a tangle with some small-time drug dealers, Tom decides to go straight and starts working full-time so that he can rebuild his collection record by record. Yet his concern for his old friend Gary, still caught up in that troubled, drug-addled world, throws another complication into his efforts to lead a simpler life. Fans of Nick Hornby’s English-accented musings on music, obsession, and growing up will find much to love about Reeves’ debut novel. Tom is an insanely likable Everyman—he might not be an intellectual, but his smart-alecky sense of humor will endear him to most readers, especially when he spouts such gems as: “But then other things had positive names but weren’t always good. Take heroin, for instance, the name for a heroic lady but also something that makes you look like Gordon’s wife.” While the madcap climax is a bit too absurd and involves too many well-placed coincidences to be believable, it doesn’t stop this story from being enjoyable down to the last syllable.

A frank and funny coming-of-age story with a rousing soundtrack.

Pub Date: Dec. 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5049-9334-0

Page Count: 232

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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