This tale about a state’s political uprising will likely inspire both incredulity and smiling approval.

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The Cleaning Crew

A debut political novel focuses on a revolution that intends to wrest power in Massachusetts from corrupt officials.

Best friends Matt Greenhill and Jeremy Boatman, both in their 60s, have no shortage of cantankerous complaints about politics in their native state of Massachusetts. Successful businessmen at the ends of their careers (Matt is already retired), they decide they simply can’t suffer the steady decline of their state anymore and pledge to do something about it. A few years earlier, Matt had drawn up a plan to take over the state and reform it, a plan based upon creating a group (they both resist the label “party”) from whose ranks they will replace existing politicians and bureaucrats. Membership in the group is largely nonpartisan, though everyone who joins must accept a nine-point platform of reform. The most controversial core ideas include enacting educational reform by diminishing the power of teachers’ unions, legalizing and therefore controlling drug and prostitution trades, and abolishing criminal gangs (while also disarming the police somehow). The grand plan requires a near total commandeering of government to work—Matt and Jeremy plan to control both houses of the legislature and the lion’s share of bureaucratic agencies. At first, the entrenched Democratic Party reacts dismissively (the attorney general immediately calls them Nazis), but as the group, which comes to be known as the “Cleaning Crew,” steadily grows in popularity, the establishment fights back with savage territoriality. Members of the Crew are indicted on fraudulent charges, sued for libel and slander by officials accused of corruption, find their offices broken into, and worse. Hayes, a Massachusetts native and lawyer, concocts a kind of political fantasy whereby a popular uprising is conducted by responsible experts beneficently motivated only by altruism. The idealism that drives the story is extraordinary; when challenged by a political editor, asking why the group should be taken seriously, Matt declares: “We will choose people with the expertise and know-how, and then we’ll provide them with the support, the funding, and the motivation to accomplish the change needed.” This is a lively, and often very funny, novel and will certainly appeal, in a cathartic way, to those who pine for a fresh political start. Its strength is certainly not its plausibility or the incessant proselytizing of its two protagonists; rather, the book’s principal virtue is its optimism regarding the power of democracy, unabashedly expressed.

This tale about a state’s political uprising will likely inspire both incredulity and smiling approval.

Pub Date: April 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5246-0388-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2016

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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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