Minor work from a writer who has done much better.



Three Mexican señoritas cross the border with a gay escort in this good-humored road novel from Urrea (The Hummingbird’s Daughter, 2005, etc.).

The coastal town of Tres Camarones has gone from sleepy to desolate since its men went north to “Los Yunaites,” looking for work. Luckily there are two strong women in town. Middle-aged Irma, a no-nonsense former bowling champion, is running for mayor. Her niece Nayeli, a dark-skinned beauty one year out of high school, is her campaign manager. Nayeli misses her father, one of the migrants, and treasures his one postcard, from Kankakee, Ill. After Irma is elected, Nayeli turns her attention to the crime wave she sees coming—though all we’ve been shown are two out-of-luck drug dealers. Inspired by a screening of The Magnificent Seven at the Cine Pedro Infante, she decides to head north and bring back Mexican cops or soldiers to help her deal with the bandidos. Joining Nayeli in her quest are Yolo and Vampi, her “homegirls,” and Tacho, gay owner of La Mano Caída Taquería and Internet café. The premise is weak, and Urrea keeps everything cartoon simple so he can get his show on the road. The town takes up a collection and gives the girls a big send-off. In Tijuana, Nayeli fights off some bad guys before being befriended by Atómiko, ersatz warrior and authentic trash-picker, who insists on joining their mission. Using tunnels, they cross the border successfully on their second attempt. (This is well-covered ground for Urrea: See his nonfiction border trilogy, beginning with Across the Wire, 1992.) In a silly bit of farce, Tacho is arrested as a suspected al-Qaeda member. Meanwhile, the ladies spend time in San Diego. Their recruiting goes well. Yolo and Vampi find boyfriends. Nayeli, still single, goes back on the road with the liberated Tacho. They are heading for Illinois, her father’s putative home, but the momentum has been lost and the ending is a fizzle.

Minor work from a writer who has done much better.

Pub Date: May 19, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-316-02527-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2009

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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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