While serving large helpings of unfamiliar vocabulary, this post-apocalyptic novel still delivers a solid coming-of-age...

American Solace

A FAR FUTURE COMING OF AGE MYTHIC FANTASY

In the far future, a young descendant of Native Americans embarks on a vision quest to discover his totem.

Little Owl, or Miintikwa, 17, lives along the Wabash River, where the fish are scarce and starvation looms. His people, the Peeyankihšionki, were spared when the fifth world ended long ago. An abandoned town, Waayaahtanonki, lies north and could be recolonized, but the area is considered ghost-ridden; to the south live the Ciipaya, an implacable enemy. Overwhelmingly curious about what lies north, Owl decides to head for Waayaahtanonki on a vision quest. He’s surprised and pleased when childhood friend Red Willow joins him; she’s a skilled hunter and warrior—and increasingly, unsettlingly attractive. A Ciipaya warrior seeking “the Lake Erie talisman” attacks the pair; Willow leaves Owl to escort the Ciipaya back to his territory. Journeying northward, Owl becomes astounded and puzzled by remnants of civilization: bridge pilings, buildings, glass. He decides to find the cove where his people emerged from the fifth world. There, he’s stunned and terrified to behold Mihšipinšiwa, “Underwater Panther,” but the underworld god grants Owl informative visions about how the last age ended. Owl faces several dangers and more revelations before he can return home with the knowledge to save his people. In his debut novel, Cook melds a futuristic post-apocalyptic story with a classic coming-of-age quest tale, adding interest with authentic details from Native American culture, such as herbal healing and arrow-making. Owl and Willow’s young love is fairly standard but warm. Cook depicts the Peeyankihšionki with appreciation for the tribe’s multilayered politics and offers some intriguing future history, though its mechanics remain somewhat murky. As are other elements: why would historical patterns repeat themselves so exactly thousands of years later? Are non–Native Americans simply evil? And the Native American words employed liberally throughout are big stumbling blocks for the reader. They’re long, of uncertain pronunciation, and many look much the same at first glance: Mihši-maalhsa, Myaamionki, Mihšipinšiwa, Mishiginebig, and Meehšimeelwia, for example.

While serving large helpings of unfamiliar vocabulary, this post-apocalyptic novel still delivers a solid coming-of-age adventure.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5174-6554-4

Page Count: 282

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2016

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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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