A novel with the best intentions doesn’t automatically work as fiction.



English journalist Lowe turns a politically correct exploration of slavery on West African cocoa plantations into an excruciatingly shallow relationships saga in New York City.

Journalist and reporter Samantha Blackwood has just come from the Côte d’Ivoire with filmmaker and lover Paul on a mission to expose worker exploitation at cocoa factories. Her task in New York, where she lives and works freelance, is to get the marketing director of a family-owned chocolate company at Rockefeller Center, T&B, to agree to an on-camera interview—although Matt Dyson has no idea that Samantha is working in cahoots with a pesky political action group that’s publicly denouncing T&B’s shameful factory practices. Incredibly, top executive Dyson, a young workaholic with no time for dating, knows nothing of his own company’s doings—exposing some of the story’s faulty interior machinery. Second-novelist Lowe (Tunnel Vision, 2001) seems to care deeply about injustice between rich and poor, strong and weak—as we see in his depiction of Sam’s previous abusive relationship—yet he lacks the adequate stylistic equipment to elevate character above the sketchy level of, say, an article in a women’s magazine. Moreover, the tale is heavily, obviously plotted: Naturally, the antagonistic Sam, the journalist, and smug marketer Matt have to find a rapprochement—which occurs handily when the two are accidentally locked up for the weekend at T&B’s factory in Baltimore. Too good to be true—they fall into vats of chocolate and build a bonfire with the help of purloined cognac supplies. Lowe knows a lot about chocolate, but little about New York City—or Boston or Baltimore, for that matter—as shown through vague and imprecise description. Yet what does emerge is an honest journalist’s intent to expose the despicable practices of American marketing, and on that level Lowe’s effort can be indeed useful.

A novel with the best intentions doesn’t automatically work as fiction.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7434-8209-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2004

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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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