WHAT GIRLS LEARN

From the Brooklyn-based Cook, an earnest coming-of-age tale featuring two sisters from Atlanta whose mother dies of breast cancer—standard first-novel fare that never provokes, never offends, and never sparks much interest, either. Twelve-year-old Tilden has always been a quiet observer, lingering on the edge of the more vibrant world inhabited by her prettier younger sister, Elizabeth, and by Frances, their optimistic, homily-spouting, divorced mother. When Frances returns home to Atlanta from a wedding up north, Tilden watches anxiously as a flurry of romantic correspondence with a man she met there turns into yet another move. Happily, though, this journey to Nick Olsen's home on Long Island turns out to be a healthy one: Nick, the owner of a limousine service, is a good guy who helps the girls with their homework, cleans up around the house, and works hard to live up to his new role of substitute dad. The girls' adjustment to this new life would appear relatively painless, in fact, if it weren't for Frances's discovery of a lump in her breast, her subsequent mastectomy, and her lingering death over the course of Tilden's 13th year—an event that leaves the two girls with no one to look after them but bumbling Nick. This bomb dropped into the center of Tilden's life might be expected to cause some interesting shock waves, but in fact the adults who surround Tilden and Elizabeth prove so adept at helping the girls adjust to the pain of losing their beloved mother that there's little doubt they'll land on their feet. Even when Frances's no-account brother, Rand, turns up for a visit and makes a half-hearted sexual pass at Tilden, he so deeply regrets his transgression that there's nothing for the reader to sink her teeth into. In the end, this drama remains, like its sturdy heroine, well- intentioned but bland.

Pub Date: March 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-44828-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more