This McMillan is no Terry, but her second effort (Knowing, 1996)—though fresh and original it's not—has a certain appeal. Spice Witherspoon is a matriarch to be reckoned with and the owner of Southern Spice, the most popular restaurant in greater Detroit. Spice's two daughters have suffered in different ways from their mother's devotion to her business; and after her husband David died when the girls were teenagers, the situation got still worse. Mink, the older, is a perfectionist, driven to succeed. After years of hard work, she becomes one of the first African- American commercial pilots. But in her quest for even greater success, she neglects her family, her loving husband Dwight and beautiful daughter Azure, and launches an affair with an egomaniac that nearly destroys her. Sterling is even more blatantly self- destructive. Addicted to drugs and sex, she's the classic bad girl. When her ex-fiancÇ, notorious drug dealer and philanderer Bennie, gets her to make some drug runs for him, she seems headed for disaster. As for Spice herself, her love life's a mess; her brother-in-law Otis has loved her for years, but Spice feels strange dating David's brother. Then she meets Golden Witherspoon, a preacher and community activist who seems to be the man she's been waiting for. Meanwhile, Spice's best friend, Carmen, is an alcoholic: When she goes into rehab, she's forced to come to terms with the true nature of her relationship to Spice and one of her daughters, leading to a surprising but wholly unconvincing conclusion. An overwrought, clichÇ-laden style doesn't help. By the close, which involves the death of one of the Witherspoons, the intricacies of the family have paled in comparison to the melodrama. Not a wash—the restaurant details are realistic and engaging, and Spice is a complex character—but, overall, far from a must- read. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 1997

ISBN: 0-446-52242-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1997

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


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.


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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