An enjoyable magic carpet ride back to an earlier time and a gentler place.

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VALLEY OF THE MOON

Two narrators, separated by nearly a century, tell a tale of old-time charm and contemporary agita.

It's 1975, and Lux Lysander, a 20-something single mother in San Francisco, is besieged by modern life. Working as a waitress, she's living paycheck to paycheck, with “maxed-out credit cards, beans and toast for dinner three times a week.” Her young son, Benno, is the product of a brief fling with a black soldier killed in Vietnam. To escape from her problems, Lux (Latin for “light”) goes alone on a camping trip to California’s wine country, Sonoma, also known as the Valley of the Moon. By an improbable freakish combination of full moon and dense fog, she's transported to Greengage Farm (pop. 278), a 1906 idealistic community trapped in a time warp that occurred because of the great San Francisco earthquake. Joseph Bell, in his 40s, is the Londoner who founded Greengage in honor of his idealistic mother, who committed suicide. Lux learns that Joseph, a man profoundly ahead of his time, has created “a residential farm where all jobs were equally valued and all jobs, whether done by men or women, paid out the same wage.” Naturally, Joseph, who conveniently becomes a widower midway through the book, is “six feet tall, with dark hair and eerie light blue eyes.” Lux is the only outsider who knows about Greengage, whose residents vanished without a trace. The book is mainly Lux’s story as she falls in love with the community, ping-pongs through time, and flirts for a decade with Joseph. For the most part, author Gideon (Wife 22, 2012, etc.) deftly handles Lux’s disorienting and occasionally loopy lifestyle. Will Lux decide to permanently stay with handsome Joseph or return to the headaches of her real life? You guess.

An enjoyable magic carpet ride back to an earlier time and a gentler place.

Pub Date: July 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-345-53928-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

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.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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