Nicely written first effort, though the sensational plot often undercuts what might have been a sophisticated take on the...

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SPEAK SOFTLY, SHE CAN HEAR

A perfect murder takes its psychological toll on a shy, conscientious girl.

In 1965, when she’s 16, Carole Mason, all in one night, loses her virginity and her future as a good Manhattan upper-middle-class girl. Carole, a lawyer’s daughter, passes for a social outcast at Spence, the exclusive girls’ school she attends, by dint of her plump figure and her family’s roots in suburban New Jersey. As the story begins, Carole’s slender, careless, rich girlfriend Naomi has convinced her to take turns having sex with Eddie, a handsome 26-year-old unemployed actor, during a school ski vacation in Vermont. But Eddie has invited a surprise tutor—Rita, a 28-year-old working-class woman from town—and the combination of alcohol and Eddie’s exotic sexual predilections results in Rita’s death. Eddie and Naomi conspire to hide the body—and to convince Carole that she’s the one who killed Rita. The impressionable Carole believes them and spends most of the next decade in guilt and flight, sacrificing all contact with her family, her education at Vassar, her social position, and her inheritance. She makes her way first to San Francisco, where she holes up in a hippie commune with Rachel, a former teenage mother, and Rachel’s young son, Pepper; then to Vermont, where she starts a restaurant and takes a lover, Will, a kind, decent survivalist guy who, being black, is nonetheless a dicey choice in ’70s Vermont. The vile Eddie dogs Carole at every turn, showing up in unlikely guises to disrupt each new phase of her life. When Eddie and the equally repugnant Naomi team up, marry, and move to town, the scene is set for a second lethal showdown—which, though inventively plotted, is less psychologically satisfying than Carole’s fraught reunion with her cold yet surprisingly kind father.

Nicely written first effort, though the sensational plot often undercuts what might have been a sophisticated take on the murder-mystery genre.

Pub Date: March 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-5539-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2005

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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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