Strong lead characters, but this stalls after a promising start.



In his debut novel, Gumbs brings two strangers into a romantic entanglement.

In this first volume of a planned series, Gumbs introduces readers to Jaacyn and Georgia, who start at odds but become lovers in a very unlikely scenario. The UDM in the title stands for “uniquely defining moment” (among other things), and each character undergoes certain testing situations. In the beginning, Jaacyn, a black man from Anguilla, is stalking Georgia, a white woman, until both are injured in a terrorist subway bombing, after which they are inexplicably drawn together. Each has secrets that Gumbs never addresses. Georgia escaped from and was paid off by a secret organization, which she still fears. Jaacyn communicates telepathically with an unseen being named Protocol. Gumbs spends many pages on flat secondary characters: Georgia’s caring but weak-willed mother, Vernie; her bigoted father, Malcolm; and Jaacyn’s easily conned cousin Curtiss. These characters seem to exist largely to be recipients of Jaacyn’s lectures on societal ills: “If you believe race is that important, you’re of the wrong race.” Gumbs’ plot hinges on the development of Jaacyn and Georgia’s relationship; they are both intriguing leads, but they still fail to learn much of substance about each other. Instead, there’s too much of Curtiss’ running to Jaacyn for loans to cover his debts, Vernie’s health scare, and Malcolm’s fretting about his daughter keeping company with a black man. There are also several chapters about Jaacyn’s bizarre night with a prostitute. Every time it seems like a reveal about either Jaacyn or Georgia might be imminent, the meandering narrative diverts to a secondary character and his or her problem. As a result, by novel’s end, there is little impetus for readers to continue to future books in this series.

Strong lead characters, but this stalls after a promising start.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4787-8977-2

Page Count: 298

Publisher: Outskirts Press

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2018

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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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