An inventive but bumpy redemption tale.

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A PERFECT CONFLUENCE

In this novel, a young man’s grave mistake forces him into a dangerous adventure that heals him in unexpected ways.

Noah—a recovering addict living in Buffalo, New York—has finally gotten the hang of sober living. He is gainfully employed, complying with probation requirements and exercising regularly with his faithful dog, Kimo. But just as he settles into this routine, his Uncle Bob—an imposing, ex-military caregiver figure who took over after Noah’s parents died in a car crash when he was 14 years old—requests a meeting. Bob confronts Noah for unwittingly impregnating a local Mafia family member, Lizzie Guerro. Bob insists that Noah’s only option—outside of being brutally exterminated by the Guerro family—is to “do the right thing” and marry Lizzie. Noah, devastated by the prospect of ruining his life, relapses and—while massively drunk—does something gravely impulsive that deepens his conflict with the notoriously violent Guerro family. With this, the option of marrying Lizzie becomes obliterated and Noah decides to skip town by canoe (the only way he believes he can leave surreptitiously) and keep paddling until he finds somewhere he can safely begin anew. Along the way, Noah meets 17-year-old Becca, a pregnant young woman on the run from an equally serious set of troubles. From here, the two become unlikely fugitive travel companions who encounter terrors and delights along a river odyssey that changes their lives in surprising ways. Bridgford (Where Eagles Dare Not Perch, 2018, etc.) demonstrates skillfulness when it comes to rendering suspense and twisting a scintillating plot. He also supports his creative storyline with appreciable outdoorsman knowledge, which vivifies the prose nicely throughout. That said, the canoe journey takes up the majority of the book and, after the first few chapters, begins to read as somewhat droning and repetitive. Further, some stock side characters become distracting while the dialogue—especially between male players—tends to read as tiresomely quippy. Early on, one of Noah’s pals tells him: “Make the wrong choice, my friend, and they’re gonna come at you like no shit-storm you’ve ever experienced.” Noah responds: “What if I wore my raincoat and used my big golf umbrella?”  

An inventive but bumpy redemption tale.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68433-332-5

Page Count: 307

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

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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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