A likable, if somewhat predictable, tale of female friendship and resiliency.



When the Firelight Girls’ summer camp is about to be closed, a few of its former campers return to the best memories of their childhood.

Ethel doesn’t relish the job, but someone has to clean up Camp Firelight to ready it for sale. The camp, on a lake in Washington, has felt like home for most of her life: first as a camper there in 1940; then as a counselor in the 1950s, where she met her life partner, Haddie; and later as its director until her retirement to a cabin only a canoe ride away. Haddie has passed away (though she's not entirely gone—Ethel drew a face on her urn and attached a yarn wig), and it seems Ethel’s whole life is collapsing. She emails camp alumni to help clear out, and those who come bring both memories and problems. First to arrive is Ruby, Ethel’s bosom buddy until family pressure (because of Ethel and Haddie’s relationship) forced her to shun her friend. Now she's looking for forgiveness. Shannon and Laura arrive, both in their 40s and at a crossroads—Laura is considering divorcing her husband, and Shannon has just given up on her teaching career. Unbeknownst to everyone, 15-year-old Amber is hiding in one of the cabins, having run away from a dangerous home life. Much of the novel is given to flashbacks to a time in the four women’s lives that felt powerful and boundless. Now, as adults, they wonder how they can regain that resilience. The camp works as a balm to Amber, who, after she's discovered, is nurtured for the first time in years. Somehow things turn out surprisingly well; everyone chalks it up to the magic of the camp, though it could be an authorial desire for happy endings.  

 A likable, if somewhat predictable, tale of female friendship and resiliency.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-01977-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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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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