A horrific if dizzyingly paced second novel from the author of Goodbye, Saigon (1994), this about a young woman's struggle to deal with the rage and sexual abuse that destroyed her family and indelibly scarred her. When underage Jolene elopes, she takes her sister, nine-year- old Lela, along as well—simply because she wants to save Lela from what Daddy did to her. Daddy is a tyrannical, Scripture-quoting control freak who's been sexually molesting Jolene for years; meanwhile, the girls' mother, Marilee, is a sweet, ineffectual soul who finds refuge in music and religion. When the newly married young couple, with Lela in tow, come back to town, Daddy goes berserk and rams their car as they try to escape. As a result, Lela is badly injured, and social workers, already suspicious of the family, send her to a foster home, a sort of contemporary Dotheboys Hall. But Lela, a sweet child, manages to tell a visiting TV crew the truth about what happened and is taken back home—only to see Daddy himself arrive with a gun and kill the crew and his wife. Escaping with Lela, he heads for a mountain cabin, but the two are spotted at a nearby store by the vacationing Bingham family. Lela is raped by Daddy and nearly dies in the cold as she flees, but the kind and wealthy Binghams find her and adopt her, though sister Jolene also wants custody. Years later, Lela is a successful artist, and life seems good—until a stranger and lover-to-be named Brad hitches up with now drug-addicted Jolene's neglected daughter, Sandy, and reminds Lela of her unresolved past. Heeding conventional wisdom, Lela must deal with that past before she can ride off happily into the sunset. More action than insight as characters reinforce stale clichÇs in a women's genre that is in itself fast becoming a clichÇ. Still, Lela is a strong woman more appealing than most.

Pub Date: March 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-517-70071-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1995

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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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