After the story collection Mourning Doves (1993), first-timer Troy offers a peek at small- town lives that could easily have become melodrama but that, thanks to her sureness of touch and tone, pulls off the trick of staying both moving and real. Living in her hometown of Venus, Kansas (pop. 4,600), late 30ish Holly Parker is divorced, has a 16-year-old son who's going out with his own ex-teacher Crystal (twice his age), and hair that ``was beginning to streak with gray.'' None of this keeps Holly's spirits down (not permanently) or dulls her natural gift of the droll and acerbic—even though she has been thinking about death a lot lately. This isn't surprising, since just this past spring her best friend Marvelle Holman's husband committed suicide—a Vietnam vet who, at 50, never got out of his depression after coming home, choosing to tinker with his old motorcycle over doing much of anything with people. ``The funeral was a disaster,'' says Holly at the start, lamenting that more people hadn't come to pay their respects (the local paper had got the time wrong). But at least Gene Rollison arrives, the state trooper who's quiet, good-looking, unpretentious—and available. And so the novel, starting in death, will end up with love between Gene Rollison and somebody new. Maybe it'll be Holly, maybe Marvelle, maybe even Sue-Ellis, the dress-busting ex-dancer who also works as a waitress with the other two at the Hearth restaurant. Along the way will be a heart attack, another death, and a rich handful of local people who remain captivating, amusing, and real without ever becoming bumpkins—the undertaker, the veterinarian, even the preacher Franklin Sanders (`` `How do you spell ecumenical?' Franklin asked''). Quietly genuine, light of touch, deftly amusing, without a false note to be heard throughout. If only all tiny towns had such people in them, and so auspicious a writer as Troy to paint them for us.

Pub Date: May 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-45153-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1997

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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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