Freely's latest satirical look (after the darkly comic Mother's Helper, 1979; and The Life of the Party, 1984) at modern American moms and dads—this one featuring a bumbling househusband whose marriage is destroyed by his wife's gaggle of terrifying friends. They were young, they were in love, and then they made the twin mistakes of settling into a progressive San Francisco community among rabidly procreating veterans of 60's communes, English departments, and medical schools, and themselves giving birth to not one but two kids of their own. While pregnant with their first—as Mike notes in this booklength confessional letter to Laura, his long-absent wife—they managed to laugh off such questions from fellow birth-class members as ``How many of you people are planning to confine your children inside the bars of a crib?'' But another child and a difficult birth later, Laura's no longer laughing as Mike trips out the front door to pursue his legal career—while she, also a law school graduate, stays home with the kids, the fires of her resentment stoked by the lunatic if ultra-politically-correct members of her mothers' support group. The pressure builds until Mike agrees to stay home himself in an attempt to save his marriage—but this new arrangement only leaves him open to increasingly intimate and neurotic entanglements with Laura's friends. Moved to sympathy and even affection for Charlotte, whose deadbeat husband is about to be audited by the IRS; Ophelia, whose spouse has been sleeping with every female in sight; and Becky, who must constantly overcome the shameful disadvantage of never having graduated from college, Mike attempts to comfort his fellow support group members in the only way he knows how—until his sexual juggling act is revealed, causing a domestic earthquake whose tremors shake up the households of all concerned and that leaves Mike a sadder, if wiser, solitary man. Wickedly funny. (Film rights to Francis Ford Coppola)

Pub Date: June 29, 1993

ISBN: 0-679-41154-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1993

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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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