BEACH MUSIC

The latest in Conroy's output of overwrought, overwritten family sagas (Prince of Tides, 1986, etc.): a sprawling, oversized beach read with the loftiest of intentions. Jack McCall is a wisecracking but tenderhearted travel/food writer with a painful past. After his beloved wife and high-school sweetheart Shyla leaps to her death from a bridge, he flees to Rome with their infant daughter, determined to raise her free from his and Shyla's oppressive southern heritage. You name it, Jack is running from it: a brutal, alcoholic father; an emotionally distant mother; four overbearing brothers (including a schizophrenic); boyhood friends turned enemies; and Shyla's parents, Holocaust survivors who never accepted their Catholic son-in-law and even blamed him for Shyla's suicide, though they desperately want to get to know their granddaughter. When Jack learns of his mother's impending death from leukemia, he returns to South Carolina for the first time in seven years, plunging nine-year-old Leah into a world she has known only through her father's eyes and stories, and finally forcing himself to wrestle with his own numerous demons. With zeal like that of his now-familiar swaggering protagonists, Conroy spins out of control once Jack and Leah leave Romehis all- encompassing sweep of the Holocaust, the Vietnam War, international terrorism, politics, religion, and the evils of Hollywood leaves little time for the bones of Jack's family drama or his sketchy romance with Ledare, another figure from his past. A real gift for storytelling emerges in spots, especially when Conroy sticks close to home, but eventually the overwhelming ``themes'' and cloying prose (hazelnut ice cream reminds Jack of ``smoke and ice and darkness'') sink the story like a ton of concrete. The Prince of Tides goes to EuropeConroy promises untold horrors and ecstasies, but delivers refractory, predictable, and occasionally entertaining southern fluff. (First printing of 750,000; Literary Guild selection; author tour)

Pub Date: June 28, 1995

ISBN: 0-385-41304-1

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1995

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more