This prolific author (Fair Peril, 1996, etc. etc.) has a remarkably vivid style, but it's not enough to sustain a plot this...

PLUMAGE

A feminist tale about a middle-aged housewife who’s abandoned by her philandering husband.

So frumpy Sassy Hummel struggles into an ill-fitting pink polyester uniform and goes to work as a maid in an immense, pretentious hotel. The drudgery is endless, although after 27 years of a miserable marriage, it's apparently all she knows how to do. Sassy is befriended by Racquel, the transvestite owner of the hotel boutique selling fabulous feathered dresses and accessories; but Racquel's flamboyant manner and outrageous get-ups make Sassy feel all the dowdier. Life just can't get any worse, it seems—until the day a lost parakeet poops on Sassy's head. It's magic doo-doo, however, which bestows upon Sassy the amazing ability to see the inner birds of others. Racquel, for example, is a hornbill. And when Sassy looks in the mirror, she sees the reflection of an ordinary little budgie. Then the mirror's surface shimmers . . . and dissolves . . . and Sassy steps through it into a mysterious parallel world, a lush jungle where extinct birds like moas and ivory-billed woodpeckers and passenger pigeons still live. There, she encounters heretofore hidden aspects of herself: a strange nature deity bedecked with brilliant feathers, a glorious bird of paradise, and so forth. Eventually, Racquel joins Sassy (and feels right at home). For a while, then, the two pop back and forth between the mirror world and mundane reality. Meantime, Sassy's husband—clueless and flightless—chases after the reluctant Racquel, while Sassy talks it all over with Lydia, a local bird-lover. Yes, the heroine learns to spread her wings and fly again, and there are lots of other well-worn symbols of newfound freedom.

This prolific author (Fair Peril, 1996, etc. etc.) has a remarkably vivid style, but it's not enough to sustain a plot this thin. And passages written from the point of view of the lost parakeet are plain silly: “At this singproud pairdance time, Kleet felt his loneliness most keenly.”

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-380-80120-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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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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