Looks beneath a famous stunt’s sensationalism to discover its roots in tragedy and need.


Based on historical events, this novel tells the story of Annie Edson Taylor, who, in 1901, became the first person to survive going over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

Schoolteacher Annie Edson Taylor, a widow, is traveling back East when robbers board her train and steal her life’s savings. Desperate, Annie listens when carnies in her boardinghouse suggest she perform “a stunt no one has ever survived” and make money telling her story, perhaps at the upcoming Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. The location suggests Niagara Falls, so Annie uses her mathematical and engineering know-how to calculate the best odds for going over. She commissions a barrel with the right characteristics, gets a talent agent to represent her, and dyes her graying hair daredevil red. But it’s not that simple, as Annie discovers when she gets to Niagara and becomes a pawn of shady businessmen hoping to cash in on her stunt, offering “protection” in return. Annie makes a deal with Mr. Stilwell, an experienced riverman, who shows her how to avoid the whirlpool and takes her on a tour. They share an attraction to each other and the falls. But after her famous stunt, Annie must leave Niagara to make a living. Will he follow when the falls “are his oxygen and without them he will smother”? In her debut novel, playwright Morin ably portrays the cruelty that’s allied with hucksterism, from unfortunate animals sent over the falls to onlookers’ hopes of observing tragedy. Annie’s careful preparations for her stunt—designing the barrel, scouting the location—make engrossing reading. Several first-person, present-tense points of view, including those of a tough bodyguard and a ghost, contribute to the story’s immediacy and drama, but the voices are very similar and sometimes implausibly lyrical. “The deaths of the sad and the foolish keep the local tramps in hard liquor and old flowers,” muses Stilwell, so rough around the edges that he lives in a cave.

Looks beneath a famous stunt’s sensationalism to discover its roots in tragedy and need.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-948133-01-2

Page Count: 285

Publisher: Po84 Productions

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

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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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