A one-trick pony, with a pretty good trick.



A writer’s life is studded with celebrity appearances in this whimsical collection of linked stories.

When we meet Rose at 17 in 1963, she’s a student at a summer arts program in the Canadian countryside where an American author who has recently published a “novel about an aging basketball player” is the visiting writing instructor. But the young John Updike is less moved by Rose’s writing talent than her long, tanned legs, Bermuda shorts, and matching halter tops, and by the end of the summer Rose will have learned more about the faithlessness of men than the writing of fiction. In subsequent stories, she’ll go on a date with Bill Murray, be stalked by Charlotte Rampling, and share a stolen kiss with Bob Dylan after he mysteriously crashes her family’s summer vacation. Fourteen stories and 50 years later, she’s had a facial from Gwyneth Paltrow and liver surgery by a drunk Keith Richards, winding things up by taking a canoe trip with Leonard Cohen, Karl Ove Knausgaard, and Taylor Swift. Jackson, a Canadian magazine journalist making her fiction debut, finds many ingenious ways to play this game, but the quality of the stories is inconsistent, and there’s not much to keep you going except to see which famous name is next. The most emotionally developed piece is also one of the cleverest, “Free Love,” in which Rose and her boyfriend, Nick, run into Joni Mitchell in the Cretan village of Matala. All the details of the setting come from Mitchell’s song “Carey”: the silver, the wine, the wind in from Africa, Carey himself. As Nick throws himself unabashedly into an affair with the girl in the next cave, Rose becomes increasingly miserable. As Joni puts it in a heart-to-heart at the Mermaid Café, “This free-love thing. It’s bullshit.”

A one-trick pony, with a pretty good trick.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-08979-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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