Her prose style like a buzz saw shearing through layers of consciousness, Koja (Strange Angels, 1994, etc.) continues her rampage through the land of eros, again framing her penchant for trios and S&M in a bleak but ever-so-trendy downtown art scene. Narrator Jess, a happy-go-lucky temp worker, and his childlike hairdressing soulmate Sophie think they have it all just because they have each other: They play their game to the hilt, making out anywhere, anytime—and so much the better with an audience. Their lusty play maintains an earthy innocence, however, until they meet cool, sophisticated, exquisite Lena, who gives them a new word for their sport—``kink''—and with whom they immediately bond. What starts as a friendship with sexual overtones changes character when Lena moves in with them; her allure ties Jess in knots until he gains the object of his desire, and a menage Ö trois is born. But Sophie and Lena are a hot item, too, and so poor Jess is blindsided when—so overwhelmed by his passion that he wants Sophie out of the picture (and believing that Lena is in agreement)—he forces the issue and becomes the odd man out. Obsessed with Lena even after her betrayal, he compulsively tracks down her acquaintances, from space-cadet sculptor Edie to filmmaker Annemarie, and finally the powerful, aging Saul, who starred with Lena in Annemarie's XXX- rated ``art film'' Peril, gaining an ugly but consistent picture of her romantic conquests and mastery of the three-way from her wrecks of ex-mates. Eventually his new knowledge—along with a helping hand from Sophie—enables him to trade in his obsession for the hope of a more balanced relationship. There's immense power here in the style and titillating subject matter but also a chilling sense that one is being manipulated, all the right buttons being pushed, from the first page down to the sap-happy ending.

Pub Date: June 6, 1996

ISBN: 0-8050-4391-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1996

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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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