Yamanaka's giddy, bawdy, and genuinely moving second novel (Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers, 1996) concerns three Hawaiian Huckleberry Finns, children left motherless and in poverty, who must fend for themselves against a harsh, indifferent world. When Ella Ogata dies, her husband Poppy vanishes into the drudgery of his menial night and day jobs, leaving 12-year-old daughter Ivah in charge. Ivah knows that everything is falling to pieces despite her efforts to feed the family on white-bread-and- mayonnaise sandwiches, with dinners of cold cream-of-mushroom soup poured over hot rice. Brother Blu is soon grotesquely overweight and drawn to an impressive panoply of local perverts. Little Maisie won't talk and wets her pants in school, where she is humiliated by some self-righteous Caucasian teachers. But setbacks or no, the children manage to create their own, often magical, world—one that is never lacking in energy and ingenuity (expressed in gloriously funny Hawaiian pidgin) and even allies (the kids' butch cousin Bib Sis and her schoolteacher girlfriend Sandi). They survive despite incursions from the feral Reyes family, a half-dozen violent, sex- happy sisters and their dope-dealing incestuous Uncle Paulo, who has his eye on both Maisie and, as it turns out, Blu. The plot turns on a secret that's revealed: Ella and Poppy were child lepers, raised in a remote colony, miraculously cured by sulfa drugs in 1949, afterward bravely (and vainly) trying to join the ``normal'' world—but then things hurtle toward melodrama as Ivah is about to depart for boarding school. Uncle Paulo chooses this moment to rape Blu, an act that leads Poppy to accuse Ivah of abandoning her family. Fortunately, Big Sis and Sandi are there to make everything right. A pungent mix of poetic observation and vulgar reality, and further evidence that a literary Renaissance is brewing out in Hawaii: Here's a novel that rejects exotic gush for an unflinching vision relayed by a unique voice. (For other Hawaii-set fiction, see Pamela Ball and Nora Okja Keller, above.)

Pub Date: April 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-374-11499-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1997

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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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