A promising debut collection of 15 stories, set in Alaska or concerned with it. The pieces focus mainly on contemplative women who come to terms with loneliness and distance and display the quiet courage required for survival. In the title story, the narrator, 18 years in Alaska, remembers her earlier self (``When I was 20, a skinny girl from Minnesota, I had the great romantic notion that I wanted to live in Alaska'') when she's confronted with Bonnie-who, wanting ``to get down to the essence of life,'' withdraws to an island wilderness and freezes to death. Luck and circumstance often mean the difference between survival and disaster, as in ``Marks,'' where Pam clips salmon fins in a factory and reconstructs the brutal murder of Roni, an acquaintance who chose to survive by dancing nude in a club and living a reckless thrill-seeking life- until one day she took a plane ride with the wrong man. Other stories deal with the idea of Alaska as a place to find a new self: in ``The Lady with the Sled Dog,'' a man interviews a woman who ``has mushed her team over a thousand miles of frozen mountains, through blizzards and darkness,'' and, finally seeking out her ``perfect white world,'' the man is changed in small but irrevocable ways. Still other takes are evocative and moving: ``Volcano,'' about a woman alone after a nearby eruption; ``Snowblind,'' where a woman stateside waits for her Alaskan lover, only to discover he's a deluded romantic (``You know, even if we're not there, we need Alaska to be there''); and the comic ``Why I Live at the Natural History Museum,'' which manages to transport Eudora Welty wholesale to Alaska. There's nary a clinker among these: the collection bears delicate, closely observed witness to a place and to some of the voices that come to terms with it. A writer to watch.

Pub Date: April 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-918273-84-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Coffee House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1991

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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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