BELONGING

Thayer always writes compellingly about women's lives, but sometimes the stories feel close to the bone while, other times, they're as dazzling but weightless as soap bubbles. Here, in her tenth novel (Family Secrets, 1993, etc.), she's opted to stir up the suds again. Joanna Jones, beautiful, blond, and 40-ish, is the star of a popular television series called Fabulous Homes. Each week she explores another gorgeous house and ponders the life of the family that inhabits it. The irony is that Joanna herself lives carelessly in a nondescript apartment. She has no family, only a clandestine lover, Carter, the very handsome, very married producer of her show. But everything changes when Joanna, realizing that Carter will never desert his family for her, learns she's pregnant with his child (or, actually, children—it's twins!) and flees to Nantucket. There, she finds the perfect old house, complete with its own legends of hidden treasure, and also manages, almost effortlessly, to hire the perfect housekeeper. Don't be fooled, though. Despite her ``rippling'' blond hair, domestic acumen, and seemingly endless financial resources, Joanna doesn't go on to lead a perfect Martha Stewart existence. She has to endure an astonishing series of tragedies on the otherwise tranquil island before she, literally, rises from the ashes, reassesses her good fortune, and rebuilds her life once again, ending up pretty much where, in the opening pages, Thayer hinted she would. Thayer's writing skill is evident here. She's especially marvelous at depicting babies in all their messy charm, and she knows how to create strong, stubborn, memorable characters like Madaket, Joanna's young housekeeper. But these flashes of talent just make you wish for more of it among the frothy scenes of parties on yachts and details of elegant interiors. Still, a good read for a segment of Thayer fans, notably those who loved Everlasting (1991). Love, money, life, death: a page-turner that's 99.9% pure formula.

Pub Date: July 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-312-13026-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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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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