SUCH A LONG JOURNEY

A first novel from Mistry (the notable story collection Swimming Lessons, 1989) about a family man in 1971 India who experiences a political scandal firsthand. Set at the time of India's war with Pakistan over Bangladesh, it convincingly dramatizes how an honest but naive man can be compromised by events he doesn't understand. Gustad Noble is a bank clerk faced with an assortment of family problems—an inexplicable low-grade illness of daughter Roshan; a son (Sohrab) who wins a college scholarship but refuses to accept it; and a nostalgic dream for a mythical golden age. Evocative instances of domestic humor and travail (Noble, for instance, decides to bring home a live chicken for a feast, with amusing consequences) and local character sketches (notably that of Tehmul, a man harmless but brain-damaged, whom we first meet ``directing traffic around the demon tree'') give way to undercover intrigue when Major Bilimoria, an old friend who works for Indira Gandhi's secret police, recruits Noble to receive mysterious parcels and deposit sums of money (under a false name) in the bank where he works. The plot thickens (dead animals begin to appear on Noble's doorstep) as domestic travail tightens (no medications seem to help his daughter) before scandal erupts. Bilimoria is arrested: it turns out he's either a sort of Oliver North, officially transferring funds to aid guerrillas in East Pakistan, or a crook. Noble, confused, his world in disarray, travels form Bombay to Delhi for a chilling meeting with Bilimoria, who is now near- delirious. The agent admits his guilt: he intended to line his own pockets and those of his friends, including Noble. Amidst revelations of gross governmental corruption, Bilimoria dies—but Noble survives as the war begins to ``liberate'' Bangladesh. A finely textured look at India in a time of upheaval.

Pub Date: April 25, 1991

ISBN: 0-679-40258-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1991

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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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