DEATH IN EQUALITY

A would-be writer finds cancer instead of a publisher in New York; she goes back to Alabama to die, but storywriter and anthologist Ebersole (Mondo Barbie, 1993, etc.) keeps her character alive long enough to inject a few poignant anecdotes into this otherwise maudlin first novel. Embodying the modern belief that only in many voices can one find truth, dying Cordelia takes shape through her conscious, her unconscious, and her self-specific omniscient narrator (``Without Cordelia, I cease to be omniscient''), making a desperate effort to tell all she knows. As the seventh (and last) of the name Cordelia in her family to die in the small town of Equality, she is part of a rich matrilineal heritage, the possessor of her predecessors' memories as well as of her own. But she is also the end of her line. Not inappropriately, most of her recollections concern other deaths: the brave, proud black woman Cora Johnson, visited on her deathbed by the now-famous writer Jane, whom Cora rescued from her white-trash family and inspired to become a storyteller; Adam, a bright young boy who learns about fireworks from the town's only Chinaman, then blows himself up within a few days of his mother's giving him his first chemistry set; bored young Mary Elizabeth, who drags a sister and her friend to see the local psychic: The old woman refuses to tell Mary Elizabeth about her future, sensing that the young woman will soon die. Intermixed with these tales of woe are Cordelia's brief encounters with the living: her visiting nurse, dispensing painkillers and geography quizzes; old Doc Campbell, himself dying of cancer; and her ex-lover from New York, who followed her home against her wishes only to sit helplessly by as she fades away. Engaging character sketches in the time-honored tradition of southern gothic, although the more contemporary conceit that binds them here is loose and ineffectual.

Pub Date: March 12, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-15106-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1997

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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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