Baseball provides a metaphor for playing—and winning—the game of life in a new novel by the author of The Cooter Farm (1992). Jones packs plenty of humor, pathos and plot into a story that literally ends with a bang. Back in 1962, Susan Innis was found drowned near the home of her employer, Henry Truxton III. Twenty-two years later, Truxton is still around: a millionaire playboy, candidate for the state senate, pornographer, and, Susan's son Walter believes, possibly a murderer. In a narrative that alternates between Walter's first- person recollections of his childhood and a third-person account of his present life, the soon-to-be-divorced, currently jobless used- car salesman plots a revenge that he can lay at the feet of his dying father Vic, a one-time minor league pitcher he doesn't even love. A breech-birth baby, Walter seems to have been going through life ``ass first'' ever since. But now, as he schemes to blackmail Truxton, he comes in contact with a group of people who might just improve the odds of his ever achieving happiness, including Jeannie Weatherrup, a widow who loves pancakes smothered with butter and maple syrup and has the abundant flesh to prove it, and Maurie Winthrop, boyhood friend and sleazy lawyer, who helps Walter forgo extortion and find his moral being. Jones has a wonderful way with words; his prose is ironic, funny and at the same time moving as he explores the pain of existence and the sheer necessity of getting on with life. The Truxton plot line fades away rather than coming to an emotionally satisfying conclusion, but Walter gains a few insights in a final ballpark apotheosis before being cracked over the head by an angry Little Leaguer. Flawed, but personable and engaging—not bad for the second time at bat.

Pub Date: April 5, 1994

ISBN: 0-7868-6025-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1994

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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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