THE LONGEST WINTER

Debut novel based on the true story of a man stranded for 17 years among Eskimos: a fictional biography from a first-time Australian novelist who shows a fine eye for setting and detail but can't quite do justice to her main character. John Robert Shaw, a 1920's aviator trying to set a new record for a solo flight, crashes his plane on the way back from Miami to Anchorage. He loses his arm but is saved by an Eskimo woman named Kioki who feeds him, treats his wounds, and begins to teach him the ways of her people. But John Robert's biggest problems are psychological. His first years in the village are spent reliving the ``bad things'' that have happened to him, both before and after the crash. He's haunted, for instance, by his best friend's death, though it took place years ago; often he believes that he sees and talks to the friend. Extended periods of anger and depression become the norm, and John Robert more than once considers suicide. After he flies into a rage and beats Kioki, he's beaten himself and becomes an outcast. At this point John Robert begins to appreciate the life he has, including his two wives, his children, and his acceptance by the village. Then the United States Army arrives. It's now 1943, and the US fears a Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands. Everyone in the village is whisked away to Anchorage, where John Robert is separated from his family. He travels back to South Carolina to reconnect with his mother and sister. Throughout, John Robert reveals lots of angst and anger—dark emotions that make the novel's ending seem too easy. Like the winters so ably described here: harsh, often fearsome, frequently repetitive. You'll never doubt you're in an Eskimo village; you'll just get a little tired of being there.

Pub Date: June 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-312-13115-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

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.

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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