Ranging from the comic to the catastrophic, carefully including women of all ages and sizes: a collection a mile wide and an...

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THE HAND OF BUDDHA

STORIES

A debut collection of 12 tales, by poet and novelist McFerrin (Namako, 1998), offers myriad views of women faced with difficult or awkward choices—but holds them at such a safe distance that neither the women nor their circumstances are especially compelling.

From first to last, a savvy detachment is the guiding principle. “Coyote Comes Calling,” the opener, depicts an Arizona woman having a rough week: her doctor tells her she either has a tumor or is pregnant, she gets a flat tire, and a man she wants to sleep with asks her for the phone number of her best friend. But when she gets high and meditates, everything looks much better. The final piece, “Khalida’s Dog,” adds a hint of sorcery to the mix as a plus-sized mathematician in Berkeley takes up belly-dancing but then, at a whiff of scandal, pokes her nose into her enchanting instructor’s past a bit too much. More sobering is “Childproofing,” in which a woman has come a long way from her Nebraska roots to live in a fabulous designer home complete with Olympic-size pool—except that the fence around this paradise isn’t sufficient to keep out deer, which invariably fall into the pool and turn her into a nervous wreck. The title story offers a slice of human tragedy, too, as a daughter struggles with the reality of caring for her Alzheimer’s-ravaged mother while trying to keep alive the love they shared. More common, though, are fluffier tales of romance like “A Little Variety,” about a gray-haired San Francisco gardener who finds wedded bliss with a laundry-impaired young hunk.

Ranging from the comic to the catastrophic, carefully including women of all ages and sizes: a collection a mile wide and an inch deep, smoothing over far more than it reveals.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-55689-104-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Coffee House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2000

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

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.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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