From poet and novelist Engle (Singing at Cuba, 1993, not reviewed): another lyrical and joyous affirmation of the human spirit's ability to subvert and survive—this one as much a history of Cuba as of one family's long fight for justice. ``The heart of the island,'' the story's young narrator asserts, ``is a magnet, enormous and powerful, pulling me back through time and space, pulling me in and down, swirling [in] the eye of the hurricane.'' And, in 1993, when Carmen Peregr°n visits Cuba and meets half-brother Camilo for the first time, she irrevocably enters the eye of that hurricane. Her father, a famous Cuban revolutionary who had been assassinated before either of his children were born, had married two women. One was Marisol, now a high-level functionary in Cuba's government; the other was the American mother of Carmen, a would-be revolutionary who returned to the States and spent her life traveling with her daughter and selling ancient artifacts. Now, this mother's death in a recent hang-gliding accident has impelled Carmen to meet Camilo, with whom she's corresponded since childhood. Their meeting is brief but significant as Camilo, entrusting Carmen with a package of documents not to be opened until she's back in the US, immediately sets off on a raft for Florida. When he's discovered and later imprisoned in Cuba, Carmen returns home and dedicates herself to freeing him. Along the way she learns of Castro's role in her father's death and uncovers family secrets going back to Spain 500 before. Camilo is eventually released; Carmen marries botanist Alec; and the reunited family regularly gets together even in the future—the story ends in the year 2033 in a now-free Cuba. All these events are enhanced by lapidary evocations of nature, and an urgent, compelling love for family, land, and freedom. A remarkable work—and significant contribution—that seeks to understand the ravages wrought by oppressors past and present.

Pub Date: July 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-553-09987-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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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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