An epistolary novel that, while not scanting the hardships and tragedies of pioneer life, luminously evokes a pristine northern New Mexico. When Abigail Reynolds heads to the Southwest with her great- great-grandmother Abigail Conklin's letters in hand, she discovers not only a home for herself but family long thought to have disappeared. And between this discovery and the making of her new life, she offers the first of Abigail's correspondence, both as a family record and a testament to what becomes a lifelong love affair with a place. In 1867, with the Civil War over and prospects for Abigail's husband, Clayton, thin in his native Virginia, the Conklins joined a wagon train heading to California via New Mexico, where Clayton had been promised work in the mines. As she writes to her sister Maggie, who will be the primary recipient of her letters over the next five decades, Abigail not only defends Clayton's decision but records their travails and triumphs, along with her own growing attachment to the land. A son is drowned on the passage out; Clayton's mining ventures fail; and Abigail has to ask her Virginia relatives for money. When the Conklins abandon the rough and tumble of mining camp for farm life, however, Abigail, has found her home. She's determined to stay on even when Clayton is often away, water is scarce, and she has only her eldest daughter, Amy (who will eventually leave to study and marry in the East), to rely on for help. Three other children are born, two of whom survive, but Abigail is a survivor, too—a woman of independent spirit and loving heart who's not ashamed, though her Anglo neighbors shun her, to rear in her old age her runaway daughter's half-Indian child. The letters here, though richly detailed, are secondary to the landscape that Osborn, a poet and novelist (Patchwork, 1991), renders as a splendidly vital presence, vying with Abigail for center stage. (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-688-14123-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1995

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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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