An earnest novel about one man’s personal transformation during a decade of political change.




A historical novel of race, love, and destiny set in a tumultuous 1960s America.

It’s the summer of 1960 and Royal Finley is a black graduate student at the University of Chicago. His friend and fellow student Rodney Johnson, who’s also black, is sympathetic to the Black Nationalist movement—Malcolm X makes a cameo in the opening pages, which leads to a conversation between him and Royal—while Royal adheres to a more individualistic conception of human freedom, telling his friend: “It’ll take more than laws to make us free.” Royal is also sexually impotent—in contrast to the philandering Rodney—and his anxieties about this undercut much of the novel. He develops a relationship with Nadine Miles, a white graduate student who studies African history. Their story is set against the backdrop of the civil rights struggles of the ’60s, encompassing African nationalism, miscegenation laws, and the Freedom Riders. In Indianapolis, Royal experiences a tense exchange with Nadine’s family over their relationship. Questions of race and desire—and how the two are intertwined—loom large for Royal, who, by the end of the book, ends up advising Lyndon Johnson on school integration. The book’s sense of history feels authentic—true to the “combination of fact and fiction” that Cheek references in the preface. Near the middle of the book, the author portrays Royal looking “intensely into his soul,” where he sees “confusing images of his obscure and vague sense of ethnicity.” This is the novel’s central theme, as Royal’s rise to the heights of the civil rights movement offers an effective portrait in miniature of the decade’s political transformation. Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of this book is how it interweaves the biographical and the historical as the protagonist searches for authenticity, finding himself repeatedly “returning to his ethnic roots to reexamine his life’s quilt.” The book’s spiritual tone and stilted prose may alienate some readers, though, as in lines such as “they embraced and shared the nectar of their individual souls.”

An earnest novel about one man’s personal transformation during a decade of political change.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9988635-0-4

Page Count: 558

Publisher: QuarticPress

Review Posted Online: May 16, 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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