Barry has a genius for remembering the odd things kids and grownups do, especially during those times that linger between...



Barry’s recent novel (Cruddy, p. 1999) proved what her comics admirers already knew: she’s a splendid writer with a phenomenal ear for everyday speech. And her comics work, syndicated in dozens of newspapers, has grown with her. After collecting stories featuring her character Freddie (The Freddie Stories), Barry celebrates another of her wonderful creations, Freddie’s sister Marlys.

There are over two hundred Marlys-centered pieces here, some dating back to 1986, making it possible to chart Barry’s growth as writer and artist. Though she still relies on a scratchy, wobbly messiness to echo her subject, Barry’s lines calmed down a bit, and her frames became less busy. Barry likes to play with the borders to her mostly one-page stories, and she eventually broke out of her strict four-frame format. A number of the earlier pieces are told by Marlys cousin Maybonne, who hates her guts, partly because Marlys doesn’t hesitate to remind everyone that she’s a gifted child. But their childhood together is recalled with bittersweetness: their marginal social status, the absence of fathers, their tough-talking matriarchs. As the girls remember it, though, it’s mostly about gross food, nasty neighborhood dogs, plastic toys, and goofy haircuts. Beneath the joyful flotsam of their youth, Barry peeks in on their desperation. She also knows the junk well: the bikes, the batons, the turtles, the caps, the candy cigarettes—she’s a visual archaeologist of American childhood. The best stories are in Marlys own voice: her riff on the word “groovy”; her little lessons addressed to readers on drawing, school reports, and local news; and her hilarious “guides” to mud, Band-Aids, bugs, and “poodle poetry.”

Barry has a genius for remembering the odd things kids and grownups do, especially during those times that linger between meanness and joyful innocence. Beyond nostalgia, her deceptively simple art, in all its spareness, breaks your heart and makes you laugh, often at the same time.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-57061-260-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Sasquatch

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2000

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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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