A debut collection of six stories from Alberts (the novel Tempting Fate, 1987)—a writer especially good at weaving together, in a few pages, a saatisfying tapestry of voice, character, situation, and detail. The standout here is ``Blood Sand,'' about Daniel, a New York investment broker who throws over his wife and suburban life and moves to Hermosa, New Mexico, where he buys up ten acres and begins to build what a neighbor calls his ``hippie house.'' The story covers some 15 years, during which Daniel—alienated from his affluent parents as well as his East Coast origins—divorces, turns blue-collar, marries a local Hispanic girl, then divorces again before finding both love and acceptance. Likewise, the haunting title piece, told as a series of vignettes and family snapshots, covers a lot of ground in the life of an unhappily married man, a lawyer with an office job in the family factory. ``Between Revolutions: Holiday, 1982'' is a powerful (and more concentrated) tale about Grisha, a Russian teacher of English who wants to consummate his affair with Kate, an American exchange teacher, but can't find an apartment where the lovemaking might happen. It's a funny-sad story, juxtaposing the bleakness of Russian life with Kate's high-spirited American expectations. The same is true in ``Russia Is a Fish,'' except that here Kate wants to marry Kolya, a vigorous ex-seaman, only after he's lost interest in her. As for the other pieces: ``Dealing'' is a dreary tale of drugs and strung- out mornings, while ``Veterans'' is just a sketch about a woman's fascination with her veteran boyfriend and with memories of her own life in the 60's. Originally, the most impressive stories here—some of which first appeared in American Fiction and Nimrod—read like small novels, by turns lyrical and gritty.

Pub Date: May 29, 1995

ISBN: 0-8262-1009-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Univ. of Missouri

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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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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