A moving family tale with rich characters.

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MINNIE'S ANTIQUE & CURIOSITY SHOPPE

In this novel, a young woman, her mother, and a little girl get a second chance at life in a fitting venue: a secondhand shop.

After divorcing her cheating husband, Liza Murphy leaves Minneapolis and returns in defeat to her hometown of Watertown, South Dakota. There, her hippie mother, Minnie, is living in the makeshift apartment above her business, Minnie’s Antique & Curiosity Shoppe. The shop was a source of embarrassment to Liza as a kid, and she’s not happy to be moving back in. But the customers and the assortment of knickknacks they find are charming. Her mother is especially taken with Raymond Standing Rock, a member of the Dakota Sioux tribe, who comes by to sell her handmade jewelry. While Liza saves up for her own place, she reunites with friends, takes up painting, and explores lukewarm feelings for several men, including her kind boss, Dr. Kent Swenson; her sophisticated art instructor, Beau Bartlett; and even her high school crush, Jim Bailey—though he’s married to her friend Julie. Meanwhile, her ex-husband, Taylor, makes a halfhearted effort to win her back. But Liza ultimately gives her heart to a little girl she calls Sweetie. One day at the store, a teenager leaves the child there and doesn’t return. Liza takes Sweetie in, and while she waits for the chance to adopt her, the protagonist’s anguish at the thought of losing her to child protective services is truly heartbreaking. And this effective plot development deepens her complex relationship with her mother. When Minnie goes on vacation, leaving her daughter to deal with a major life event on her own, Liza appreciates her mother more. Minnie is full of platitudes, which she passes down to her daughter like the well-worn antiques in her shop. “Where you stumble, there lies your treasure,” she says. By the end of Stein’s (Dry Run, Oklahoma, 2017, etc.) engaging story, the protagonist understands just what Minnie means. Liza reimagines her future as if she is sifting through an assortment of treasures to find the perfect gift, and the end of her search is as heartwarming as it is rewarding.

A moving family tale with rich characters.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-979935-02-9

Page Count: 346

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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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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