Quiet but earnest tales with emotionally resonant characters.

READ REVIEW

THE OPEN DOOR

AND OTHER TALES OF LOVE AND YEARNING

The stories in this collection revolve around the love that characters crave, lost, or may never savor. 

In the titular tale, Leonard Leopold is a successful divorce lawyer. But as his 40th birthday approaches, he looks for a new direction in life, which may entail his obvious attraction to his secretary, Jennifer Hopkins. The L-word drives the stories in this book, and not always the romantic kind. For example, in “Carved Stone,” Jane Simonton has had trouble maintaining relationships since her father abandoned the family. But she ultimately develops a love for Inuit carvings that she gradually collects. The highlighted emotion is even a threat in the indelible, SF-flavored “Love Contraception.” It takes place on the planet Coddle after humanity’s extinction. But humans’ Thoughts have already become separate entities, “infecting” other planets. Love, entangled in those Thoughts, somehow proves dangerous to the cloudlets living on Coddle. Many characters share similarities, especially an appreciation of art, including Syd of “Immobilon” who, like Jane, collects Inuit sculptures. But others are delightfully surprising. In the case of “The Doctor Party,” Mr. Jones and his wife, Helen, throw a party with (mostly) physicians. But while he ogles his therapist, Dr. Kretchmer, Helen seems to have her eyes on someone, too. In the same unpredictable vein, Benjamin, in the final tale, “The Miracle of Estelle,” dreads visiting “annoying,” paralytic Estelle with his wife, Melinda. But he soon sees Estelle in another, brighter light. Piatigorsky’s (The Speed of Dark, 2018, etc.) persistent metaphors are sometimes too on-the-surface, particularly as story titles, like Leonard’s open office door representing his newfound openness. Regardless, the author’s breezy style offers frequent moments of insight: “But she loved that he needed her to be happy, and she saw his incessant self-doubts as endearing qualities.” Prefacing each engrossing tale are debut illustrator Carrillo’s black-and-white sketches, which resemble photographs from an album (complete with corners). A standout is “The Doctor Party”—an imperfectly framed snapshot of people awkwardly huddled with drinks.

Quiet but earnest tales with emotionally resonant characters.

Pub Date: March 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-950437-04-7

Page Count: 218

Publisher: Adelaide Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2019

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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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