A solemn, exasperating, overplotted, yet quite moving portrayal of Latin American political repression: a sequel to the author's Imagining Argentina (1987). The disembodied voices of 12 innocent victims, massacred by Argentina's secret police, disclose the ``stories of our last days and nights...unwritten but clamoring to be told.'' These stories are juxtaposed against the interrelated stories of a wounded, traumatized girl, the only survivor of that massacre, and a cross- section of citizens whose lives she enters and variously affects. Among them are a pair of married physicians whose own daughter is one of ``the Disappeared,'' a courageous journalist whose writing stimulates public agitation for justice, a gentle teacher who cannot conceal herself in a protective world of books, and a farm couple who surreptitiously ``adopt'' another family's sons. The dead patiently watch and wait, hoping that ``mystery's daughter'' will recover her own identity and become the witness who will speak their names as well. A magical-realist substratum is contributed by glimpses of celebrated local seer Carlos Rueda (also a character in Imagining Argentina). Thornton strains readers' patience with unconvincing coincidences and writes a frustratingly uneven prose that's sometimes hauntingly limpid, sometimes stiff and labored. But the novel contains many dramatic sequences and particulars, such as the discovery of a killing field when small boys bring home a single earring and the memorable image of a bereaved father who keeps drawing pictures of his missing son in colored chalk on city sidewalks. There's little that's new here, but the material is inherently gripping, and Thornton's gift for inventive detail keeps us reading. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 1995

ISBN: 0-385-47552-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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