So there’s nothing left for any of them to do but wander in the wilderness, as God apparently has no particular plans for...



A host of quirky, cranky characters confront their own mortality—and a lot of other stuff—in this chaotic second from Goodwin (Sleeping with Random Beasts, 1998).

Judith Ealey nearly scratches out the eye and breaks the knee of a man she thought was trying to mug her on a Tucson jogging trail. As he writhes in agony, she realizes her mistake—and takes him to the hospital, then to her place to recuperate. Dubbed “Scratch,” her accidental victim is nonplussed by her generosity but amenable to staying on her couch, since his life has crashed and burned for the umpteenth time anyway. At 51, Scratch knows that his life should have evolved beyond addictions, lousy relationships, resenting his parents, fantasizing too much, and compulsive masturbation, but he’s unable to change. Meanwhile, away in Boston, Judith’s intellectual, artistic brother David is flirting with a lonely lesbian, musing all the while on his failed affair with lover Louise, who really doesn’t seem to need him any more than anyone else does. Should he hire a private detective to find his long-lost sister, or let sleeping dogs lie? Enter Morris Ealey, grandfather of these two, who drives around the country talking to his dead wife because he just doesn’t want to give up and go to Florida to die. Then there’s Robert Ealey, their father, putting his two cents in. Somehow they all end up in Arizona, where they agonize about life for a while longer. Judith’s handsome homosexual friend Chris makes a pass at Scratch, who demurs. David’s new lover isn’t happy in the Southwest (too little water, too few lesbians). And Grandpa Morris reveals a Big Secret.

So there’s nothing left for any of them to do but wander in the wilderness, as God apparently has no particular plans for this confused clan—and neither, it seems, does the author.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-8118-3692-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2002

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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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